Danes with different rolesArticle
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While Viborg reach the semi-finals with a great performance, Ikast failed to take a point from the group. Eurohandball.com's Danish correspondants explains why.

Danes with different roles

Two out of three Danish teams made it to the main round of the Women´s Champions League. However, they had very different fate at this stage of the competition.

Vestergaard plays a key role in Viborg's successWhile Viborg HK won Group 1 and will proceed to the semi-finals, Ikast-Brande EH ended last in the same group. Ikast have the dubious honour of being the only team in the main round that failed to collect a single point.

Let’s find an answer to the big difference and to Viborg´s development respect to last season.

When it comes to Viborg, their improvement compared to last year is almost amazing. With pretty much the same team – and even hit by several injuries lately – they managed to reach the semi-finals in convincing style. Last year they said goodbye after the main round.

“A lot of things have changed in Europe and in our own team and coaching staff,” was Viborg coach Jakob Vestergaard explained.

However, the competition in Europe has definitely not become weaker and Viborg´s taks in that respect have therefore not become any easier. As stated above, there have not been many changes in the Viborg team either. Only the coaching staff is left, and probably we should look for the main reason here.

Also true that some of the players were new last season and they have settled in well by now, but most of the credit must be given for Jakob Vestergaard.

The 34-year old coach, with a career in two other Danish league clubs Ikast and Horsens, was the assistant coach last year. He was welcomed with much scepticism when he was promoted before the current season.

“Panic in Viborg!” or “Could they not find someone better?” These were some of the headlines back then, but Vestergaard has silenced each and every sceptic.

He has not made many changes in the tactics, but he has proved to be a great leader of a group of players from no less than seven different countries – from very different cultural background.

In spite of not being a big man physically, he still managed to be a strong and visible leader. The players seem to have absolutely no doubt who the boss is. Apparent: he many stars in the team cope well with that.

Ikast: ruined confidence

Many stars, no pointsAt first sight, Ikast-Brande do not look much weaker than Viborg. Take Norwegian internationals, such as Gro Hammerseng, Katja Nyberg, Isabel Blanco and Ragnhild Aamodt, and add Danish internationals, such as Mette Sjøberg, Malene Dalgaard and Susan Thorsgaard. Give former Danish national team player Line Widt Fruensgaard.

With so many experienced players, you should have a quality team even if Ikast lost the French world class goalkeeper, Valerie Nicolas, who had retired before the season.

In fact, Ikast did very well in their preliminary group. An away win against Győr and an away draw against CL title holder Zvezda qualified them for the main round.

A probable explanation for Ikast’s failure to perform well in the main round, could be the very first game there. They suffered a shocking home defeat (38-24) against Viborg.

Apparently, this match ruined the confidence of the Ikast players and they also lost in Austria against Hypo. From that moment on, it was a mountain too high for the Ikast girls.

Not even Blanco (left) was able to helpThe Danes still had a chance to stay in the race with a home win against Podravka, but they lost by three.

“We are going to try to show some development in the remaining part of the main round and try to make some points,” Ikast coach Kenneth Jensen told eurohandball.com.

Even though his team did not manage to get a point from the last three games, they must have gained valuable experience before the last rounds of the Danish league. In fact, they are fighting for a place in the Champions League again.

TEXT: Peter Bruun