Sjöstrand looking forward to playing this timeArticle
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INTERVIEW - In 2011, an injury prevented Johan Sjöstrand from being part of the FC Barcelona triumph at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. This year, the 27-year-old goalkeeper is looking forward to playing and hoping to win with THW Kiel.

Sjöstrand looking forward to playing this time

It is no wonder that Johan Sjöstrand is looking particularly forward to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 this year. He has been in the LANXESS arena in Cologne once before. That was in 2011, when he was playing for FC Barcelona who won the tournament that year.

That happened without the Swedish international on the court, though. A leg injured meant that the goalkeeper was watching it all from the tribune. He got the sense of the atmosphere, of course, but that was obviously not the same as playing.

On 31 May and 1 June he will be back in Cologne, this time with THW Kiel, whom he joined from Danish Aalborg Handball before this season. talked to Johan Sjöstrand in the middle of a tight programme with the battle for the German championship running alongside the preparations for the VELUX EHF FINAL4. Does the VELUX EHF FINAL4 mean even more to you this time, considering that you missed it the last time?

Johan Sjöstrand: Of course it does. In 2011, I was sidelined with a torn muscle fiber in a leg, so I am really looking forward to hopefully playing this time. It is a goal for any player and any team to play the FINAL4, and it has been a goal for us in Kiel for the entire season. You were in a close battle with Rhein-Neckar Löwen for the German championship at the same time as the VELUX EHF FINAL4 was rapidly approaching. How did you manage to focus on two so big tasks simultaneously?

Johan Sjöstrand: The Bundesliga finished on 25 May, so until then we focused on that. That left us with a week to prepare for the FINAL4, but a week should be enough. It simply has to be. The VELUX EHF FINAL4 is characterised by being decided within 24 hours, unlike group phase and knock-out rounds. What does that mean to the team involved?

Johan Sjöstrand: It makes it feel more like a championship with a national team, where you are also there with your team during the whole event, and where things are also decided with very little time between the matches which means that you do not have much time to recover for the next task.

This obviously puts some high demands in the depth of your squad. It becomes a question of how many and how qualified substitutes you have, and how many injured players you have.

You have to be able to make substitutions and rest players along the way in order to stand a chance. In that perspective, how do you rate your own team's chances?

Johan Sjöstrand: Obviously, we do not have the largest squad, but we have a good team, and we believe in ourselves, so I think our chances are good. Your first hurdle will be Veszprém in the semi-final. How do you see your chances against them?

Johan Sjöstrand: I do not think playing Veszprém was the worst thing that could happen to us. Of course, they have a very strong team with a lot of good players. They have an extremely dangerous key player in Laszlo Nagy, around whom their attacking play is being built more or less. But actually, I think Veszprém suit us rather well.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / br