INTERVIEW: Skjern's manager talks about the unexpected success of the Danish side in the EHF Cup
Dahl-Nielsen: Second trip to Berlin would be incredible
After the group phase of the EHF Cup has reached its “half-time break”, Skjern Handbold are - like MT Melsungen (Germany) - the only team with a clean record of three wins. The Danes even sensationally beat last seasons’ semi-finalist and 2015 host of the EHF Cup Finals, Füchse Berlin (32:28).
Even the manager of Skjern, Anders Dahl-Nielsen, is surprised with the successful start by his side. With a three-year intermezzo (2007 to 2010) the 63-year-old former Danish international and national team coach is working at Skjern since 1998, first as their coach then as their manager.
Between and before this (1994–1998) he coached current VELUX EHF Champions League champions SG Flensburg-Handewitt on the German side of the border.
In this exclusive interview with eurohandball.com, Anders Dahl-Nielsen talks about the goals and dreams of his club and even predicts an all-German Champions League Last 16 duel of his former club vs THW Kiel.
Do you agree that Skjern Handbold currently are the biggest surprise in the EHF Cup?
Anders Dahl-Nielsen: The engine is truly running well at the moment. If all our players stay free of injury, we really can play good handball. We have some players with international experience in our team, who lead the way.
Your squad consists totally of Danish players. Is this the philosophy of Skjern Handbold?
Anders Dahl-Nielsen: You cannot say that it is the base of our club, but at the moment you are right. But for the next season we have already signed two Norwegian players.
Was the win over Füchse the key to the quarter-finals?
Anders Dahl-Nielsen: In Denmark we analyse the German league very closely, and we know that if you are constantly on top, you truly must have a strong team. Füchse have a team like this, with a lot of players with various nationalities and a much higher budget compared to us. So to beat them was a surprise even for me. But our victory against Porto had the same significance, as at the start of the group phase we thought that the duels of Skjern vs Porto would decide the second position and thus the qualification for the quarter-finals.
So the hopes are high even to beat Berlin on their court on Sunday?
Anders Dahl-Nielsen: We want to show a performance like we did last weekend; maybe it is enough, maybe not. But even a close defeat would be no problem, as then still we can win the direct encounter being four goals ahead right now.
Is your team strong enough to enjoy a second trip to Berlin for the EHF Cup Finals in the German capital in May?
Anders Dahl-Nielsen: We dream of it. A second trip to Berlin would somehow be incredible for our club. Usually our goals are not that high: we constantly want to finish among the top four in the Danish league, to reach the Danish cup final tournament, and to play on international stage to develop our team in European competitions.
Anders Dahl-Nielsen: Of course, my sympathies are with Flensburg, but I was the coach of Kiel coach Alfred Gislason, when he was my player in Iceland, so I also have a soft spot for him. But regarding the run of injuries Flensburg is dealing with at the moment, I don’t see them doing it. I would say that they could focus on the German cup now, as Kiel have been eliminated. If Flensburg manage to beat Kiel it would be a major surprise for me.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc
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