|23.09.2010, 10:00||◄ last page|
EHF Women’s Champions League countdown, part 1: Viborg HK (DEN)
Everything new for the title holder
Straight after winning the EHF Champions League for the third time after 2006 and 2009 in the lion’s den of Bucharest this May, all the players from Viborg HK knew that they would never play in this squad constellation again.
After the EHF CL trophy was brought home to Denmark the squad of the Danish champion changed completely. Not less than twelve players – including some top stars – left, only seven newcomers arrived.
Already before the end of the season the Lunde twins from Norway announced that they would leave the club. As goalkeeper Katrine found a new club in Györ, her playmaker sister Kristine wanted to go to Hypo. But then the Austrians announced that they wouldn’t sign her - so she went to her home country Norway instead.
Another loss came as a big surprise as Bojana Popovic decided to sign a contract in Podgorica this summer.
That important trio plus some more Danish and international players had to be replaced. And Viborg managed to find some experienced newcomers.
Romanian international Carmen Amariei came from FCK, Tunisian Mouna Chebbah from Esbjerg and European Champion Marit Malm Frafjord arrived from the Norwegian top club Byåsen Trondheim to Viborg.
Those extra-ordinary changes mean a lot of work for VHK coach Jakob Vestergaard. But he is still confident to reach the two major season’s objectives: Reaching the league final in Denmark and going to the EHF Champions League semi-final in their 15th participation of the European top tournament.
Right in the group stage the Danes will meet very strong opponents in DinamoVolgograd, Buducnost – Popovic’s new club – and Sweden’s IK Sävehof.
"Group A is an extremely hard one, with teams who all can realistically go to the semi-finals of the EHF Champions League. This only illustrates the depth of quality teams in European women’s handball. Also it seems that the top clubs outside Denmark haven’t been terribly hit by the economic crisis, so the competition just seems to get harder still," Vestergaard said.
Concerning the opponents the coach shows biggest respect: "Volgograd has an excellent team with a great backcourt, a very good keeper and some technically gifted wings. We were a bit lucky to start last years EHF Champions League season with a one goal victory in Volgograd, and they will certainly be a tough opponent. Buducnost won the EHF Cup last season and have of course been strongly reinforced with Bojana Popovic. They have a powerful team and have high ambitions for this EHF Champions League season."
Another fact that makes Vestergaard feel a little bit unsure is the tough programme on home soil: "We are heavily matched in our domestic league, which is not really so much the case for our opponents. This can be both good and bad for us. We obviously get into a rhythm of having to perform each week, but it also means that we can’t afford to take it slow in some periods of domestic handball like the other European teams can. This makes us more vulnerable to injuries."
But despite the big changes Vestergaard still can count on a high class team with players like the Germans Grit Jurack and Anja Althaus, defence specialist Amariei and the three times EHF Champions League winner Maja Savic from Montenegro.
And those players will continue the successful tactics of the former years, Vestergaard hopes: "Concerning our own team it will be absolutely crucial, that we set up a strong defence. Our aim is to still be the best counter attacking team in the world. In order to succeed in this, we must have a very strong defence. If all this goes well, we have a good opportunity in our group."
Newcomers: Christina Nimand Pedersen (from FCK), Carmen Andreea Amariei (from FCK), Mouna Chebbah (from Team Esbjerg), Pia Hildebrand (from VHK Youth system), Camilla Hornbech Mikkelsen (from SK Aarhus), Maja Savic (from FCK), Marit Malm Frafjord (from Byaasen)
Left the club: Bojana Popovic (to Buducnost), Katrine Lunde Haraldsen (to Györ), Kristine Lunde-Borgersen (to Våg Vipers), Gitte Aaen (to FC Midtjylland), Dianne Møller (destination unknown), Karen Smidt (end of career), Katarina Bralo (to Nimes), Lene Lund Høy Karlsen (destination unknown), Janne Pedersen (AGF Aarhus), Sandra Mittet (to NFH), Monika Kovacszics (to FTC Budapest), Nora Reiche (to Thüringer HC)
Coach: Jakob Vestergaard (DEN, since 2008)
Find more information here.
TEXT: Björn Pazen