FEATURE: It was tough for him to get back to everyday handball at HC Midtjylland after winning silver with Norway at the World Championship. But Espen Lie Hansen does not regret his second stint in Denmark at all.
Espen Lie Hansen, a happy Norwegian in Denmark
In January, he was one of the key players in the Norwegian national team which surprisingly won the silver medal at the World Championship in France.
Now, Men's EHF Cup games are the international challenges that Espen Lie Hansen is facing.
The 28-year-old left back is in Denmark for the second time in his career after joining last year's Danish Cup winners HC Midtjylland this season.
His first stint in Norway's southern neighbour country was in the 2011-12 season when he represented Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League just like they are this season.
No doubt about returning to Denmark
However, it was no personal success for Hansen.
"I did not play much for Bjerringbro-Silkeborg. But despite that experience I had no doubt about returning to Denmark," the left back tells eurohandball.com. "I have always liked it in Denmark and this time I did not expect to sit on the bench so much. In that respect my expectations have been met."
Hansen acknowledges that Midtjylland have had "some poor performances" in the Danish league lately.
"But I still hope we can make it to the championship play-off. And in our EHF Cup matches, I think we have done okay so far."
The left back is not a bench sitter at HC Midtjylland, and he certainly wasn't sitting on the bench much when Norway played at the World Championship in January.
"It was a fantastic experience to win silver with Norway," Hansen looks back. "But I have to admit that I was tired and rather drained physically and mentally when I came back to Herning after the tournament. It took me some time to get the energy back. Now I feel I am finally top fit again.”
Playing in an European competition means something special
The former Drammen HK player has been around in Europe.
Apart from having played in Denmark once before, he has also been with Dunkerque Handball in France, SC Magdeburg in the German Bundesliga, and Bregenz HB in Austria.
Considering that background, it is obvious that playing in an European competition means something special to him. He gets plenty of opportunity to do so now Midtjylland have reached the EHF Cup Group Phase in their first ever season in Europe.
"It is always exciting to meet some foreign teams and some teams you may not know in advance," Hansen says. "We are new to this as a team but we got a good start with a win against Porto, and I think we could have also won in Spain against Granollers. We have got a tough but also interesting group with Göppingen as the fourth team."
"Maybe we can benefit from my knowledge of Göppingen"
Frisch Auf Göppingen are the next European challenge for Hansen and his teammates. The defending EHF Cup champions, and organisers of the finals this season, are visiting Herning Saturday night.
"I played against Göppingen when I was at Magdeburg so I know a bit about them. Although some or their players have changed," Hansen says. "Their coach (Magnus Andersson) is still the same, though, so maybe we can benefit a bit from my knowledge of them."
Hansen is aware that Göppingen are giving Midtjylland "our toughest challenge so far in the EHF Cup" and that his team must improve from their recent performances in the Danish league.
"Maybe we can hope for them to take things a bit easy against an unknown Danish team which are even debutants in the tournament," the left back says. "It will be tough but our chance is there, and I am for sure looking forward to that match."
TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew
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