Two meters tall, two meters wideArticle
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INTERVIEW: The Icelandic left wing of THW Kiel warns about the defence specialists of Motor Zaporozhye ahead the second leg of the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 tie.

Two meters tall, two meters wide

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson will say “farewell” to THW Kiel after this season. The team captain of the Icelandic national team with more than 300 international matches and 1,500 goals dreams to have his last match in the “Zebra” jersey in Cologne at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. “Goggi” (34) has been participated three times in the season’s pinnacle event, with three different clubs: Rhein Neckar Löwen (2011), AG Kobenhavn (2012) and THW Kiel (2013) by now.

But the left wing knows how steep the way to Cologne is – and despite the away win at Györ against Ukrainian champions Motor Zaporozhye, Sigurdsson is aware that the way to the 15th quarter-finals in club history is not an easy walk at the sea. After winning the first leg away 31:28 – is the quarter-final deal for THW Kiel already sealed?

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson: No, definitely not! We still have to be aware of Motor Zaporozhye. They have a really strong team with defence specialists, who are two metres tall and two metres wide and who do not allow you to go through easily. We did not show our best possible performance in the first leg, but we fought well and took two points, this is what counts. But it is our clear demand to win the second leg too. Was it an advantage for your team that Zaporozhye could not play their match on their home court?

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson: We have so many experienced players in our team who really don’t care if we play at home or away. I have never played Zaporozhye away so I cannot tell, how important their spectators are. For them it was a bigger disadvantage then it was an advantage for us. Is something planned for the small jubilee, if you proceed, as then THW would play their 15th EHF Champions League quarter-final in the club’s history?

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson: Really? I did not know that. We as the team really don’t have any thoughts about statistics. We want to win, regardless if it is a record or a jubilee. And for us it is important only to look ahead and not upon the past. Currently we are not on our highest possible level, but we win those matches thanks to our character and fighting spirit. Is this performing level the result of the major transition which had started after last season, when key players like Omeyer, Ilic, Ahlm and Narcisse left?

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson: I do not link it to this transition, as at the end of the year 2013 we played on a really high level. It is more the injury situation in our team. Rasmus Lauge was out for nearly three months, then played four weeks and is out for month with a torn cruciate ligament again.

Aron Palmarsson can at least play on 50 or 60 percent of what he is able to do after his knee injury. Christian Sprenger was out for some weeks with an ankle injury. And Johan Sjöstrand is still troubled by his concussion.

It is not our character to lament on those injuries, but simply to play and win – regardless if we have seven or 20 players on the team list for a match. It is your last season for THW Kiel. Would reaching the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne be a perfect farewell?

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson: Yes, it would be great to return to Cologne. And in contrast to 2013, we want to win both matches and not get defeated twice again. It is an excellent event, but the way to Cologne is as steep as never before in the Champions League. First we have to proceed to the quarter-final and if we do so, we know that a really tough opponent will wait for us. How do you rate the first leg matches of the Last 16?

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson: In contrast to some years ago there are absolutely no easy matches anymore. Just look on the results of THW, PSG, KIF, Flensburg or Veszprem. They all have to struggle to proceed. You already have any wish for the quarter-finals?

Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson: It feels good that we definitely will not face Barcelona, Veszprem or Hamburg. And I strongly hope that we will not face any German opponent, as it is the special attraction of the Champions League to compete with teams outside your league. But in the end we have no influence on the draw. They drew the lots, we have to play – at first against Zaporozhye, before thinking on a potential quarter-final opponent.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br