Toft Hansen: Nice to be favourites this timeArticle
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Kiel's Danish line player hoping for more success in Cologne this time around

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"Nice to be favourites this time," says Toft Hansen

Last year Rene Toft Hansen was an underdog with AG København at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. This year the Danish international enjoys being in the role of favourites with THW Kiel. Now he cannot wait for his second appearance in Cologne, his second one in succession.

The 28-year-old was a debutant in the LANXESS arena together with his team-mates in AG København last season and signed for THW Kiel shortly afterwards.

It is the former Viborg and Kolding line player's first club outside his native country, but he has not regretted that step for a minute, as he reveals in this interview with What are your expectations ahead of your second VELUX EHF FINAL4 in succession?

Rene Toft Hansen: I am really looking forward to playing in Cologne again. It was a great event last year and I very much like the concept of concentrating it all on one weekend. I also like the arena being full, but then again, the Germans are really good at filling the halls at all matches. Although this is your second appearance in a row, it has been with two different clubs, as you represented AG København last year. What is different this year, if anything?

Rene Toft Hansen: The most remarkable difference is the fact, that while we came to Cologne with AG as underdogs last year, I think we are favourites with Kiel this year, which is a role I enjoy very much. This time Cologne will be like a home court for us, while felt it like away games with AG last year. How have you liked your first year in Kiel?

Rene Toft Hansen: It has been really great. I have got to play a lot, and as you know, we have won a lot of matches. We are German champions and German cup winners already, so now we are really keen on taking the last title too.

I also enjoy the atmosphere that surrounds the games down here. In Kiel the hall is always full, and that is also the case when we play away, no matter where we play and you are not exactly talking about small halls in this country. How do you feel you have developed as a handball player in your first year in Kiel?

Rene Toft Hansen: In the defence I have become better at waiting and anticipating the situations, as we rely a lot on blocking the shots in the defence here – instead of rushing forward and tackling.

In the attack, our play is being built a lot around the line player, and that has given me a lot to work with in my position which has definitely boosted my development in the attack. You have played in the Danish top clubs KIF Kolding and AG København. What is the difference between top Danish clubs and Kiel, as you see it?

Rene Toft Hansen: There is much more tactical training here than I was used to. We spent a lot of time training small tactical details. However, there is also at lest two training sessions with physical training every week, so I have lost a few kilos during this season

However, I have not yet experienced, what is said to be the toughest part of the season here – the pre-season training, which I have been told is extremely hard physically.

I missed out on that part last year, as I was at the Olympics with Denmark, so I am not really sure what is awaiting me this summer.

Another difference is that the distances to most away matches are much longer than in Denmark. We often leave the day before, by plane or by bus. Sometimes we have really long bus rides, and I have never felt well on a bus. I am not complaining, as all is compensated for by all the cool experiences I get. I really like it here. How do you see your chances to take “the last title” – the Champions League trophy?

Rene Toft Hansen: I think our chances in the semi-final against Hamburg are good. We have met Hamburg twice this season and defeated them on both occasions, even though our wins have not been big.

While we are probably going to have half of the crowd supporting us in the semi-final, I expect us to have the entire home advantage in the final and it will boost our chances even further. I see us as favourites together with Barcelona.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor