If the Danish women’s league turns out the way the experts predict, Odense HC are in for the first Danish championship in their history and when you look at the squad former national coach Jan Pytlick has at his disposal, it is hard to disagree with the experts.
National team experience on the bench and court
Danish internationals Trine Østergaard, Mette Tranborg, Mie Højlund, Stine Jørgensen and Kathrine Heindahl are all new in the club, just like goalkeeper Emily Stang Sando, who is close to the Norwegian national team, and left-wing Freja Cohrt, on the fringes of the Danish national team.
When you add a top coach like Pytlick plus the fact that Odense will have not European obligations to put physical or mental strain upon the players this season, you have an obvious favourite for the national title.
Defending champions face a challenge
Nykøbing Falster Håndboldklub, champions of the league last season, appear to be heading for a tough season.
The surprise package of last season, after they won the championship for the first time in history, have said goodbye to key players such as Swedish international Nathalie Hagman at right-back/right-wing as well as line player Mette Gravholt and defensive specialist Pernille Holmsgaard.
Integrating successors for such stars will take time and present an obvious challenge to the new head coach Jakob Larsen who had success with the men at GOG, but who is new at coaching a women’s side.
Challenges for Midtjylland
Denmark’s other representative in the Women’s EHF Champions League, FC Midtjylland are also facing challenges.
In addition to the Danish internationals Østergaard and Jørgensen joining league rivals Odense, Swedish international Sabine Jacobsen has joined CSM Bucuresti.
Furthermore, Louise Burgaard will be alone at right-back after Icelandic international Rut Jonsdottir left for Team Esbjerg. Anne Mette Pedersen has returned from Kobenhavn Handbold for the right-wing, while the Norwegian pair of Tonje Løseth and Helene Fauske have been signed for the back-court line along with Danish veteran Trine Troelsen.
Still, head coach Kristian Kristensen will have his work cut out when trying to build a team as strong as the one who reached the Women’s EHF Champions League quarter-final last season.
In fact, Kobenhavn Handbold look more like a possible rival to Odense for the title than Midtjylland do.
Kobenhavn, who lost the Danish championship final narrowly to Nykøbing last season, may have lost hard-shooting Danish international Anne Mette Hansen to Györi Audi ETO KC and right-wing Anne Mette Pedersen to Midtjylland but the signing of Norwegian Line Bjørnsen at right-wing and Dutch international Kelly Dulfer, as well as Swedish international Jenny Alm for the back-court still make the team from the capital look interesting.
Danish international Anne Cecilie de la Cour is out for the first part of the season due to maternity leave, but Hanna Blomstrand joining from Swedish champions Höör and homecoming Mia Møldrup from Nantes still leave Kobenhavn well equipped at right-back, while Swedish international Johanna Bundsen from Esbjerg looks like a strong reinforcement in goal.
Extended play-offs give more teams the chance
Having signed Danish international Sandra Toft in goal along with her teammate from Larvik, Sanna Solberg at left-wing, allows 2016 champions Esbjerg to dream of a better season than the last one when they missed the play-offs which featured six teams.
The Danish league, which starts this Friday (1 September), has undergone a change compared to previous years.
The play-offs for the championship have been extended from six to eight teams, and this change offers the chance to join the medal battle for teams such as Viborg HK, Silkeborg Voel and Randers HK, all of which are not far behind the hottest contenders.
Photo: Official Facebook - OdenseAuthor: Peter Bruun/amc