Jakobsen enjoys pressure of last hurrah with GOG
While the wider handball world sat up and took notice of a new star in the making at January’s World Championship, fans of the EHF European League could gloat that they knew about Emil Jakobsen before he hit the big time.
The 23-year-old left wing has taken the competition by storm this season with GOG but it is his national team exploits that have made the biggest impact, having won the title in his first major championship with Denmark.
“Life has changed a little bit since the World Championship. People recognise you on the street and you become a personality,” says Jakobsen, who was forced to wait for his big break in Egypt, having tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was very frustrating. I was stuck in the hotel room for seven days, just wanting to play, it is hard to describe.
“I felt fine and I tried to do some training, whatever I could, in the hotel room. I felt fit and ready to play when I got the all clear and Nikolaj Jacobsen was ready to use me.”
And he was ready to be used. Jakobsen made a big splash as he entered the squad halfway through the main round, firing in 12 goals in his opening game against Japan and eight more against Croatia, two days later.
“I was fortunate to recover quickly and get back playing and it was nice to be on the team and play a few good matches.”
The exciting winger’s form for Denmark came as no surprise to those who followed his performances for his club side GOG in recent seasons.
But while he has excelled in front of goal, top scoring in the European League with 89 goals in 12 matches, the results have been a mixed bag with six wins and four losses placing them third in group D, safely into the Last 16.
The third youngest side in the competition have also scored the third most goals in the group phase, proving themselves to be a must-watch team whenever they step out on court. However, that youthful exuberance may have cost them from time to time at a level of competition where knowing how to win ugly is a key trail.
“The season has been a bit up and down. Overall, I think we are playing well but we have times where we are really bad. If we can be a bit more consistent, we will pick up some more wins.
“A bit of it could be down to our youth. We have a very young team and perhaps we have not experienced as many different styles of play in Europe, which can be a problem. But we have a lot of potential and I think we are able to go far.
We have a very young team and perhaps we have not experienced as many different styles of play in Europe, which can be a problem. But we have a lot of potential and I think we are able to go far.
GOG have just gone clear at the top of the Danish league with a win over Fredericia on Sunday, leaving them with just 48 hours to prepare for the challenge of CSKA in the Last 16.
It is bound to be a fascinating clash due to both sides impressing with their free-flowing and speedy styles of play. They find themselves in the most open quarter of the draw, with the winner set to face either ORLEN Wisla Plock or Sporting CP for a place in the final tournament.
“We have a hard programme right now. It is nice to play handball but it is a little bit tough with all of these matches, the head is a bit tired.
“It will be a tough match against CSKA and a long trip for the second leg but I think we can do it if we play to our potential. They play a fast style of handball as well, so hopefully there will be a lot of goals.”
An added incentive for Jakobsen to hunt for titles both domestically and in Europe is that it is his final few months with GOG.
This summer, he will move to SG Flensburg-Handewitt, a path well-trodden by players between the two clubs and one that came as no surprise, considering he is one of the hottest talents in world handball. This adds a bit of pressure, wanting to bow out on a positive note, but that is something the audacious winger is relishing.
“There is always pressure on you when you are a national team player and doing well in the league but I do not think about it.
“It is nice to have pressure on you because it shows that you are doing something right on the court and I feel I perform a little bit better in a pressure situation.”