Most of the player replacements at major handball tournaments are a result of injuries, some are tactical – and some are coaching masterpieces: Denmark coach Nikolaj Jacobsen made just such a crucial replacement in their last match of the preliminary round. Though line player Anders Zachariassen played strong matches against Hungary and Czech Republic, he was replaced for the clash versus Spain – not by another line player, but, due to tactical reasons, by a right back.
27-year-old Peter Balling Christensen had his debut at the EHF EURO 2018 in the last preliminary round match, and finished it by being awarded best player of the match after eight crucial strikes against the former world champions and EHF EURO 2016 finalists.
“The victory was great for me and great for the team. I am very glad that I had the chance to show myself and could help the team to win,” the left-handed star for Danish club Team Tvis Holstebro said. “My advantage was that I can run faster than the Spanish defence.”
Exactly this fact was underlined by his coach Nikolaj Jacobsen, who was truly impressed: “Peter played an incredible match – it was simply great how he coped with the pressure. He is a fast player, who worked ideally against Spain’s aggressive defence with his speed. Sometimes, you have to be lucky as a coach, when you select a player.”
On Friday morning, Jacobsen made his next replacement: Zachariassen is back in the squad, while right back Niclas Kirkelokke will watch from the tribune. “I am always thinking how we can adapt to the next opponent in the best way, and which players to use,” said Jacobsen prior to their first main round clash against Slovenia (January 19, 20:30 in Varazdin).
And Balling’s role against the World Championship 2017 bronze medallists? Running and scoring. “Slovenia are tough to play due to their counter attacks, so we have to be quick on our feet, mainly in defence,” said Balling prior to the next stage of Denmark’s semi-final race.