FEATURE- Nykøbing coach Niels Agesen and Randers centre back Mie Højlund are confident ahead of the all-Danish quarter-final in the Women’s EHF Cup.
Nykøbing and Randers happy about Danish derby
“When it comes to our chance of winning, as well as if you look at the financial aspect, I do not think we could have got a better draw for the quarter-finals.”
The words come from Niels Agesen, head coach of Nykøbing Falster Håndbold Klub. He is a big name in Danish handball, having won the competition twice before as coach in Holstebro.
To him, the matches with Randers HK in the quarter-final of the Women’s EHF Cup are particularly special, as he is going to take over the helm in Randers from next season on.
“I have not given that a lot of thought yet, though.
“I find that the best way I can present myself to my future employer is to do my absolutely best for my current employer. So my focus is entirely on Nykøbing now, and on finishing this season as well as possible.
“Then, I can start thinking about Randers after July 1.
“What I find more interesting is the fact that I was in the EHF Cup final in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
“It would be interesting also to get there in 2017,” Niels Agesen tells eurohandball.com.
Although he is happy with meeting Randers, he does not actually see his team as favourites. Rather, he thinks that things could go either way.
“We have met each other three times before this season.
“Each team has won once, and we have drawn once.
“I think this is a perfect illustration of the fact that the chances are very equal, especially as I think Randers have improved considerably in the new year” finds Niels Agesen.
While he has plenty of European experience himself, as do some of his players, as a club Nykøbing are EHF Cup debutants.
“I can clearly feel how big it is to the club and to the town to be in Europe.
“I also remember how big it was the first time I qualified for Europe with Holstebro.
“Representing your club, your town and your country in Europe is really big, and our journey in Nykøbing has been fantastic so far.
“Our main objective was to reach the group phase, and now we have even reached the quarter-final,” he says.
“There is no reason to stop here, though.
“If we eliminate Randers, we already know that we will meet either Bietigheim or Kuban in the semi-final.
“I would rate the chances in that quarter-final to be 50-50 between ourselves and Randers, but no matter which of those two teams we meet after that, I think they will be favourites.
“However, we definitely have a chance against either team,” finds Niels Agesen.
An advantage to know the opponent
Just like the Nykøbing coach, Randers player Mie Højlund is quite content with her team’s quarter-final opponent.
“Meeting another Danish team means that we have better knowledge about our opponent than when we meet a foreign team.
“I see this as an advantage, and furthermore, I think we have a psychological edge by having won in Nykøbing once this season already,” says 19-year-old Mie Højlund.
Højlund is a rising star of Danish handball who is seen as one of the greatest centre back talents in Denmark for many years.
National coach Klavs Bruun Jørgensen has included her in his squad for the Golden League in France later this month, and she feels that the European matches are good for national team opportunities.
“I get some valuable international experience by playing these matches against foreign teams who often play in a different way to Danish teams, and of whom we often have limited knowledge in advance,” says Mie Højlund.
Just like Niels Agesen in Nykøbing, she will be leaving her club after this season.
She will be joining Odense Haandbold, where a number of national team players are gathering under former national coach Jan Pytlick from next season on.
“This makes me even more determined to do well in Randers during my last few months here, though.
“To me, Randers is my mother club. It will always have a very special place in my heart, so I really want to finish well here,” says the young centre back who thinks her team have a good chance of going all the way, like Randers did in the 2009-10 season, when the club won the EHF Cup.
“I think we have a good chance in the quarter-final against Nykøbing as well as in a possible semi-final against Bietigheim or Kuban.
“In fact, I think the EHF Cup is the tournament, where we in Randers can really make our mark this season.”
Randers HK will face Nykøbing Falster Håndbold Klub in the first leg of their quarter-final in the Women's EHF Cup on Sunday 5 March. The action can be seen live on ehfTV.com.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/kc
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