Focus on team playArticle
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Viborg coach Jakob Vestergaard tells how his team is coping with the absence of Bojana Popovic.

»EHF CL Channel »2008-09 Women's News

Focus on team play

Over the weekend Viborg seemed to be able to make up for the absence of Bojana Popovic who suffered a serious knee injury. The Montenegrin top player will not even return to handball this year.

The Danes have beaten KIF Vejen last week and then qualified for the semi-finals of the EHF Champions League with two rounds to go. talks to Viborg coach Jakob Vestergaard. The coach tells us how they go about solving this major problem.

Vestergaard expects a good Are you surprised that your team played so well without Popovic?

Jakob Vestergaard: No, not really. I was asked by journalists if I was worried. I answered that I was really not because we still have great backcourt players.

Of course, we had to make some adjustments in our strategies. We had few training sessions to do this, but I have to say that the remaining players have done really well.

Grit Jurack was outstanding in Croatia and Ida Bjørndalen did very well in attack and in defence. This means that we still have four great backcourt players and I’m sure that we will be able to use the skills of Chao Zhai.

Katrine Lunde Haraldsen did a fantastic job against Podravka, made 21 saves in the first half, three of them penalties.

However, we were not fully stable and Podravka managed to equalise after a seven-goal lead. But I have to say that we finished in style. You were also not stable enough against Vejen last week. Is this the price you pay for Popovic?

Jakob Vestergaard: I made substitutions in the second half of that game. Playing without Kristine Lunde is a problem for our attacking play. Anyway, you are right when you say that we were lacking stability without Bojana. Gunnar Prokop, manager of Hypo, still believe that you and Hypo are the favourites for the CL. Do you agree?

Jakob Vestergaard: No, I don’t. I still think that there are some very strong teams in Group 2 too. I expect Valcea to become even stronger for the semi-finals. I know how strong they are. Therefore I expect really strong semi-final opponents from that group. What does it mean before the coming matches that you have qualified for the semi-finals already?

Jakob Vestergaard: It means that we can focus even more on playing without Bojana. And as we are also sure to win the ground series in the national league, we can also make a few experiments there.

It may be an advantage for the other group that they have to take it seriously until the last match day. How important is it for you to win your group?

Jakob Vestergaard: No matter what, we much want to defeat Hypo. Partly because we want to take revenge for our defeat in Vienna, but also in order to send an important message before a possible final. In case of a Champions League final against Hypo, it would give an upper hand to win our last match against them.

TEXT: Peter Bruun