Landin returns home, first time in foreign uniform
EHF EURO champion, twice runners-up of world championships, awarded best goalkeeper at the last world championship in Spain – and Niklas Landin is only 24 years old. The gifted youngster was the successor of legendary Kasper Hvidt in the Danish goal – and on Sunday, forerunner and successor meet in the top clash of the Round 3 of the EHF Cup Group Phase in Copenhagen.
After participating in the VELUX EHF Champions League with Bjerringbro Silkeborg, Landin moved to Germany before this season to join the Rhein Neckar Löwen. And thanks to Landin’s high class performances Löwen are current number one in the Bundesliga.
Now the goalkeeper is returning for the first time ever to Denmark with a foreign club. On Sunday Löwen and Landin will be hosted by KIF Kolding in the duel of the top teams of Group B.
They both won their first two matches and Landin – like all experts – says in this exclusive interview of eurohandball.com, that those two duels of Löwen and Kolding will decide the first position in this Group.
eurohandball.com: You must be satisfied with the start in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup…
Niklas Landin: Of course, we won both matches, but in the opener at Prešov we were really lucky to leave the court as winners, as we were down by one goal 90 seconds before the end, but finally managed to beat the Slovak club by a last-second goal.
eurohandball.com: Will you have special emotions on Sunday, when playing in your home country?
Niklas Landin: It is the first time ever I play in Denmark with a foreign club, so it will be very special match. Additionally I know so many players from the Danish league and the Danish national team.
eurohandball.com: You faced some of those current KIF players in the last season’s final of the Danish league, when you played with Bjerringbro against AG København.
Niklas Landin: Yes, but this is past. I had a lot of games against those players in the league, and there are many things around those matches. I go to Copenhagen to win two points with Rhein Neckar Löwen.
eurohandball.com: What reception you expect from the Danish fans?
Niklas Landin: I do not know, what to expect. I hope they will cheer for me before the match and then we will wait and see, what happens.
eurohandball.com: Do you agree that the duel of Kolding vs. Löwen will decide the number 1 in this group?
Niklas Landin: I really think so. Both have four points on their account before the direct duels, so these should be the matches for the first place, as I do not expect our other opponents to come close to KIF and Löwen. So it is very easy: The aggregate winner of those matches will finish on top. We already hope for a victory on Sunday, but we know that KIF have strong and experienced players, who have played a huge number of decisive matches before.
eurohandball.com: Is there any favourite in those encounters or is it 50:50?
Niklas Landin: The team having the home right, is the favourite for the respective match, but as I said, we want to win both games.
eurohandball.com: You played VELUX EHF Champions League before, now you compete in the EHF Cup. What is your opinion about the new playing system with a Group Phase?
Niklas Landin: This is a good format, the competition is on the right way, the EHF Cup is something like a small Champions League now.
eurohandball.com: The winner of the trophy will be decided in Nantes in May in a tournament format for the first time. Are Löwen one of the main contenders to go there?
Niklas Landin: In my opinion Löwen and KIF Kolding are two of the major contenders, but it might become really tough for both teams to reach the quarter-finals. But if both proceed to the knock-out stage, they can go all the way to Nantes.*
*If HBC Nantes, the host of the EHF Cup Finals, will finish first in their group or are among the three best second ranked teams, the French team directly proceed to the Finals, skipping the quarter-finals. In this case only three quarter-final fixtures will be played, including the group winners and the two best second ranked teams.
If HBC Nantes will finish as fourth best second ranked team, they have to play the quarter-finals, in this case four fixtures with all group winners and runners-ups will be played.
In case HBC Nantes are not among the two best ranked teams in their group and miss the knock-out stage, four quarter-finals will be carried out.
Follow the match live on ehfTV.com on Sunday, 15:00 hrs
Follow the results of the Men´s EHF Cup Group Phase here
Photo: Sörli Binder
TEXT: Björn Pazen / br