25/01/2018

“Nobody wants to lose against their neighbour”

SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Sweden proceeded to the semi-final only after France beat Croatia, but are glad to be the underdog against Denmark, in a 100 per cent Scandinavian derby, which will surely produce attractive handball

Denmark will rely on their star left back Mikkel Hansen in the Nordic clash. Photo: Sasa Pahic Szabo

Losing against Norway in the last game of the main round meant that Sweden’s fate was far from their own hands. But after a tense wait, seasoned with highs and lows, France beat Croatia by three goals, meaning that the 35:31 win against the Croatian side in the preliminary round was enough for Sweden to earn the semi-final spot due to better goal difference in a three-way tie which also featured Norway.

SEMI-FINAL 2
Denmark vs Sweden
Friday, 26 January, 20:30 hrs local time live on ehftv.com

“It was harder than playing against them. All we could do was to sit there and cheer for France. Therefore, I will say it once again. Thank you, France, for handing us this chance. I think we are truly ready to take on this challenge,” said Swedish left back Simon Jeppson, one of the best players for the Scandinavian side up until this point.

Denmark is waiting for the Swedish side in the semi-final, a 100 per cent Scandinavian derby, who will surely produce intense, high-octane handball.

Sweden is the team with the best record in the EHF EURO, with four gold medals, but failed to reach the semi-final stage since last winning the trophy in 2002 on their home court.

“We have a great heritage and we have to honour this by playing our best game against Denmark. I was only seven when Sweden won their last gold medal, but since then I have watched a lot of the documentaries that have been produced with that excellent generation,” says Simon Jeppson.

23 mutual games have been played until now between the two sides, with Sweden winning 13 of them, while Denmark is only on nine wins.

But Denmark, who had only one blip on their radar in the EHF EURO 2018, the 28:27 loss against the Czech Republic, are favourites, even if the latest two mutual games have been difficult to call, with a 28:28 draw in the main round of the EHF EURO 2016 and a 27:25 Danish win in the group stage of the World Championship 2017.

Better attack for Denmark

The Danes won two gold medals, in 2008 and 2012, but lost the 2014 final against France, a match that could well be the last game of the EHF EURO 2018, provided that the two teams win on Friday.

“It is a big Scandinavian derby, it is special to play against them and it is more special to meet them here, in the EHF EURO semi-final. The game will surely be very fast-paced and very interesting,” says Mikkel Hansen, the Danish superstar, who is currently the top scorer on his team, with 29 goals in six games.

Denmark will surely rely on their offence – scoring two goals more per game on average than their opponents, while the two sides had similar defencive records.

However, Hansen remains cautious: “A medal? No! Talking about a medal now is a bit too much, we have a very good difficult game tomorrow. Nobody want to lose to their neighbour."

Sweden replaced key attacker Albin Lagergren with right back Andreas Cederholm ahead of the encounter. Cederholm has played 38 matches for Sweden, scoring 66 goals.

written by Adrian Costeiu / br