Jesper Nielsen has been an integral part of Sweden’s success so far at the EHF EURO 2018, as arguably one of the best line players in the competition. The 28-year-old has scored 10 goals for his side, but his main role is anchoring the Swedish defence, where his work helped propel the Scandinavian side to the main round with the maximum four points.
Sweden bounced back admirably from their opening defeat to Iceland, with wins against Serbia and Croatia, and are looking like a dark horse for a medal – their first after a 16-year drought at the EHF EURO.
However, there are still huge challenges ahead, as the record European championship winners will take on France, Norway and Belarus – all in-form sides, which can prove dangerous on any given day – in main round Group I in Zagreb.
Three tough main round encounters
These games will be interesting encounters for Nielsen, who plies his trade for PSG Handball in the French league. The line player will know some of Nikola Karabatic, Luc Abalo and Nedim Remili’s secrets, and will have some knowledge of how to stop the lethal Norway centre back Sander Sagosen, as all of them play for Paris alongside the Swedish defensive ace.
“There will be very tough games ahead. France have Nikola, Luc and Nedim, and they are always a very resilient bunch – a team that is always a favourite in any given competition,” says Nielsen.
“Then you have Norway, with Sander Sagosen. A very difficult team to play against and a very, very good player.”
Winning a medal would be a dream for Nielsen, who never came close to winning one with the national team. With a young, promising squad, Sweden are aiming to emulate the success of the ‘Bengan Boys’ – the team that dominated the EHF EURO from 1994 to 2002, taking four titles in that period.
“I grew up watching that golden generation and everybody was talking about them. And before I came into the team, Sweden won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in 2012. Therefore, it is the right time for me to think about winning a medal,” concludes a smiling Nielsen.