Berge: Tough, but we will give it a tryArticle
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INTERVIEW: After reaching the EHF Cup Group Phase last season the coach of Elverum dreams about the same stage in the VELUX EHF Champions League.

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Berge: Tough, but we will give it a try

Christian Berge, head coach by Norwegian champions Elverum HH, sees his team as underdogs in the VELUX EHF Champions League Qualification. From his own active career, Christian Berge can look back at many Champions League matches during his time with SG Flensburg-Handewitt.

Now, as head coach in Elverum Herrer Handball, he will have to try and qualify the Norwegian champions for the Group Phase.

This coming weekend, in Portugal´s second largest city Porto, Berge and his men are playing Qualification Tournament 4, where their first opponent will be the hosts FC Porto Vitalis on Saturday.

In case of Norwegian success in that match, the winner of the match between Romanian champions HCM Constanta and HV/KRAS Volendam from the Netherlands will be waiting on Sunday in the deciding match for a place in Group B.

Hoping to end long Norwegian waiting

“Of course, it would mean a lot to qualify for the Group Phase. Not only to us in Elverum, but to Norwegian men´s handball in general. It has been so long, since Norway last had a team in the Champions League that it would be a tremendous boost to us all, if we succeed,” Christian Berge told

The 40-year-old head coach does not expect his own Champions League experience from his playing days to be of much use this weekend, though.

“No not really. In Elverum we have played so many European matches now that the players are used to the international atmosphere by now, and in that respect it does not mean that much if it is the EHF Cup Group Phase (for which Elverum qualified last year, ed.) or it is a qualification group for the Champions League,” he found.

Going to Porto as underdogs

Like so many other teams, Elverum have undergone some changes compared to last season. The back court line has been extended with Swedish-Spanish Nacor Medina Perez, and on the line a further Swede, Nils Martin Karlsson has replaced Norwegian international Magnus Gullerud who has left for Danish league club SønderjyskE.

“We still have team who play in a typical Scandinavian style. We like to play fast, and we are good at fast breaks – an aspect of the game which I expect us to have to rely on a lot in Porto, if we are going to have a chance to advance to the Group Phase. We realise that we will be up against some extremely tough opponents,” Christian Berge said.

He has particularly large respect for Elverum´s first opponent, FC Porto who do not only have the home advantage, but who have also been reinforced by the former Atlético Madrid players David Davis and Alvaro Ferrer, while Mick Schubert, who was part of Denmark´s bronze winning team at the European Beach championship earlier this summer is also new in the club.

“There is no doubt that we are in for a very tough challenge already in our first match against Porto. They are at home and they have a strong team, so we definitely see ourselves as underdogs against them. If we get past FC Porto, I expect us to run into Constanta in the final. There are used to being in the Group Phase, but from what I have heard, they have lost some players, so that may be our chance, if we get that far.

However, there is no doubt that we are underdogs, and it will be tough, but we will give it a try,” Christian Berge promises.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / br