World-conquering teammates become opponents
In January, Mads Mensah Larsen and Mikkel Hansen stood side-by-side on the winners’ podium of the World Championship with the Danish team, less than a month later, the two prolific left backs face each other in Match of The Week between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Paris Saint-Germain HB.
“It is always great to duel with old mates, but of course for 60 minutes you forget friendship. Before and after the match it will be great to talk to players like Mikkel Hansen,” Mads Mensah Larsen told eurohandball.com.
“We had an incredible time together in a very special atmosphere in Egypt and I really hope that this was the only tournament without spectators. In the end, we became world champions again and this is what counts."
Three Flensburg players won gold in Egypt: Mensah Larsen, Lasse Svan and Simon Hald, while two more players, Jim Gottfridsson and Hampus Wanne, won silver with Sweden and were members of the All-star team.
Since then, Flensburg have played just one EHF Champions League, beating Meshkov Brest 28:26 away from home, before their matches against Vardar and Porto were postponed.
On Thursday, the 2014 champions feature in Match of the Week against PSG, live with English commentary on EHFTV.
“I guess, this is a 50:50 match. Even though they miss some key players such as Nikola Karabatic, Paris still have a strong squad, but ours is not weak at all. We perform at a high level,” says the 29-year-old.
Vying for top spot
With a brilliant record of seven victories, one draw and one defeat, Flensburg rank second in group A, two points behind Kielce with three games in hand.
“We are in a really good position, and we aim to remain in the race for the group victory, as this means easier opponents in the knock-out stage.
"We do not know, which team we will face in the play-offs, but the better the ranking, the easier the way. We want to finish our group on top.”
In an ideal world, this route will lead Mensah and Flensburg to Cologne. “Of course, this is my dream and my wish to go there.”
In 2012, Mensah was part of the only Danish side to reach the showcase event in Cologne, AG København, playing alongside Thursday’s opponent Mikkel Hansen. “This was an impressive event, a great memory.”
Months later, AG København ceased to exist and Mensah Larsen joined Aalborg Handbold. In 2014, he followed his former Aalborg and current national team coach Nikolaj Jacobssen to German side Rhein-Neckar Löwen, where he played six seasons and became German champion twice, before joining Flensburg last summer.
“It is really easy to integrate into this team and it is even easier when you are Scandinavian.
"Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 I could not see that much of the city, but I hope when life is back to normal, I will have some time to do so. The team and the city certainly have a kind of Scandinavian culture,” concludes Mensah.