A fairytale beginning to 2014Article
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BLOG: Match of the Week returns and the destination is the 'heart of handball' for a top of the table clash in Group B

A fairytale beginning to 2014

Vi Sejler op ad aen”. I keep hearing that song in my sleep. In fact when I wake to the melodious tunes of the Danish folk song, breathtakingly sung during the EHF EURO 2014, I find myself actually swaying in the bed. I even give the “aen” part, a delicious, OOOO-en, just for the fun of it. Simply translated, it means, we’re sailing up the river, and of course you sail back down again.

Well Match of the Week takes us back to delightful Denmark, not the weather mind you, but the people and the handball. It really is a hotbed of our sport and although I’m not actually sailing up the river, I will be taking the ferry across the Baltic Sea to Copenhagen.

So after 19 days in Denmark and about 10 at home, I take to the air and sea to visit the land of Hans Christian Andersen.

This week it is a top of the table match in Group B between KIF Kolding Kobenhavn and Kiel. You will notice I kept the Danish spelling of the name for alliterative effect. It’s the battle of the Ks and a win for the home team in the Brondby Halle by more than three goals will catapult KIF to the top of said group.

It really is a “Cinderella” story and what else would you expect from the land that gave us so many wonderful and memorable fairy tales. Back from the brink of the disaster that was AG Copenhagen, their rise and rise is unquestionably a modern day fairy tale. Add a ball, (apologies for the pun) and a handsome prince, in the guise of the young Lasse Andersson, and the analogy is complete.

Yet this team is figuratively “the ugly sister” of handball teams in the competition. They are not going to win any beauty contests for the style of handball that they play. In fairness, we have never seen their full complement on the court to date so it’s difficult to judge how good they could be.

The team has regularly had to play right handed players in the right back position and in the absence of Kim Andersson, they have looked slightly unbalanced, yet their double line ploy has reaped major benefits, especially against the much vaunted Kielce, against whom, they have won home and away.

If the old adage that defence wins games, then this team is the absolute epitome of that. Their defence is equally: annoying, tough, hard and effective. They wear teams down, they break upon the “KIF” defensive wall and when their opponents attack has petered out, then the quick speed of Hundstrup, on the left, and Rocas, on the right, terrorises in counter attacks.

That is the key to their success. If anyone thought that this aging team might appear to just be heading home for a quiet retirement, then they are sadly mistaken. The three musketeers of Laen, Boldsen and Jorgensen are all experiencing a twilight revival.

They are the rocks at the six metre line for the Danes. And if the wall of Athos, Porthos and Aramis fail to stop an attack, then the effervescent, ever youthful, catlike d’Artagnan, in the shape of Hvidt brings any lingering hope of an attack to an end.

Kiel, on the other hand, boast some of the most free flowing, attacking handball in the VELUX EHF Champions League. They are the “Sleeping Beauty” of this year’s competition.

They are not the team we know of past years and yet they keep winning. They sit atop the Bundesliga and Group B and only the most pessimistic (or optimistic, depending on your loyalties) of fans would bet against them being there, or there abouts, at the end of this campaign.

The EUROs might be a cause for some trepidation for both coaches, but in the end, a lot of players returned early to their clubs and the majority never even travelled. Only a handful were still in competitive action until the last day.

So it’s Cinderella vs Sleeping Beauty. The boys from Denmark might need their fairy godmother to beat Kiel by more than three goals, but if they can catch the German giants napping then who knows. Either way, the Champions League wheel keeps spinning. 

Catch KIF Kolding Kobenhavn vs THW Kiel live on ehfTV this Sunday, 9 February at 16:55 CET with live commentary from Tom.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator