Positive and negative surprisesArticle
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Read the analysis of Peter Bruun of the Danish women's teams at half-time of the Women's Group Phase.

Positive and negative surprises

The group stage of the Women’s EHF Champions League has arrived to its half-time. All three Danish teams – playing in probably the strongest domestic league in the world – still have a good chance to qualify for the main round. However, their performance was different and they caused positive and negative surprises too for their fans.

Viborg HK

Last season Viborg had a definitive goal to win the Champions League. They failed to make it any further than the main round. In order to do better this season, the club strengthened the squad for this season. This paid off in the domestic league and they are leading the table with 22 points for 11 matches.

The green girls from the centre of the Jutland Peninsula have also reached the final of the Danish Cup and until this weekend, their team also seemed strong enough to compensate for last season’s Champions League disappointment.

However, the 38-34 defeat against Krim Mercator in Ljubljana did not only mark the first defeat of Viborg this season. It also puts the team under unexpected pressure before the second half of the group stage that will begin in January. Of course, there should still not be any doubt that Viborg would qualify for the main round, but they may get into a situation where they will not only have to win their home match against Krim on 17 January, but also win by at least five goals in order to win the group. Krim’s surprising 31-26 home defeat from Metz may save Viborg troubles.

And if there is something for Viborg to avoid, it is finishing second in the group. Last year it had bad consequences: they ended up in a main round group with the two later finalists, Zvezda Zvenigorod and Hypo Niederösterreich…

FCK Håndbold

“It is like bringing two different cultures from two different companies together,” Anja Andersen said as she started her first season at the Champions League debutant FCK Håndbold. She was, of course, referring to the fact that half of the new FCK squad are original FCK players, while the rest came from Slagelse before the season – just like the coach Anja Andersen herself.

Without test matches played, it took the new players some time to get used to each other. In the Danish league they got things going as they are second today with four points behind Viborg after the first half of the ground series.

FCK qualified for the Champions League easily, but things proved to be more difficult in the group stage. They could only take one point from two home games so far.

The 22-22 draw at home against Buducnost T-Mobile, endangers FCK’s main round. They have to win the away match against Buducnost in Podgorica, which is the most difficult court in Europe according to Anja Andersen. The other option is to get a draw and score at least 23 goals or get at least one point away against the top team of the group, Hypo Niederösterreich…

What is in favour of FCK’s chances is the possibility that Anja Andersen may get her team function better in the meantime. They are on the right track already and there is no doubt that the players are highly qualified for the main round or even more…

The club and Anja Andersen aims to win the Champions League in 2010. Still, missing the main round this season would be a major disappointment.

Ikast/Brande EH

Together with Hypo Niederösterreich, Ikast/Brande are the only team with six points in the CL. It was a positive surprise not only in Group A, but also for the Danish handball fans and experts who did not think much of Ikast before the start of the competition.

After a miserable start in the Danish league – not even a convincing performance at the Champions League qualification group – Ikast seemed to be underdogs.

So far they proved that the critics were wrong. Their opening 31-25 win at home against Zvezda Zvenigorod could be explained by injuries and changes in the Russian team. However, as Ikast went to Győr and won 27-25 after being eight goals down, it was simply a sensational victory. After defeating the ruling champions and a semi-finalist from last season, Ikast also handled the role of favourites at home against Kometal Skopje.

A major landslide could only stop Ikast from reaching the main round at this point. It is clear that Ikast has a lot of players for the international top level. Now they started to show what they are able to do as a team – also in the domestic league where they climbed up on the table recently.

TEXT: Peter Bruun