Mental challenge awaits Team EsbjergArticle
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NEWS FEATURE: Danish runners-up coming into Women’s EHF Champions League qualification weekend on the back of impressive early-season results

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Mental challenge awaits Team Esbjerg

A fantastic season led not only to a silver medal in the Danish league for Team Esbjerg, but also secured them a ticket to the Women’s EHF Champions League Qualification Tournament this weekend. For the first time in the club’s 24-year history, the west coast side has reached European handball’s elite competition.

“Finally we made it! It’s a dream come true,” centre back Lotte Grigel says.

Team Esbjerg has already celebrated European success in the recent past. In 2014, they reached the EHF Cup final but came up short against Lada. However, there is something much bigger on this line this weekend in Qualification Tournament 2, held in Romania, where home team HCM Baia Mare take on BNTU-BelAZ Minsk Region and Team Esbjerg take on Ankara Yenimahalle BSK in the semi-finals. 

Saturday’s Turkish opponents are more or less an unknown quantity to Team Esbjerg.

“We know that they have lots of new players for this season and that they have many different nationalities. That makes it hard to prepare our tactics for the match. I think they have a good team so we need to give all we have got in order to win,” says Grigel.

Esbjerg coach Lars Frederiksen has watched some videos of Ankara for preparation, but in his opinion it is not the tactics that will be the biggest task for the Danish team this weekend.

“Our biggest challenge will be the mental and psychological aspect. We will be far away from home in an arena, where everyone will be against us. We need to show that we are made of something special in order to overcome that and then I believe that Ankara is a team we can match,” Lars Frederiksen says.


Besides the mental challenge, Team Esbjerg star Estavana Polman has no doubt about what will be the key to victory and a ticket to the Champions League.

“Our defence will be the most important thing, and with a good defence we can use our fast breaks. We also need to understand that these qualification matches will be played at another level than here in the Danish league. It will be much more physical, so we need to prepare for that,” admits Polman.

Feeling good

With a super cup and league win against last season’s champions FC Midtjylland, Team Esbjerg has had a perfect start to the season in the Danish league, and the Dutch back has great confidence in the team.

“We feel good right now and we play like a team. There are some details to improve on, but I think the weekend in Baia Mare will be great and I hope we will have a lot of fun,” says Polman.

Home side and potential opponents in the final Baia Mare are familiar foes to the new Esbjerg goalkeeper Filippa Idehn. Last season she played against the Romanian side in the main round with her former club IK Sävehof.

“They have lost some of their players since I played against them last season, but they are still a really good team. Playing on their home court will be very hard. You can barely hear yourself speak down there, so we need to prepare for the noise from the crowd, because they will do everything they can in order to make us lose the match,” the Swedish goalkeeper says.

TEXT: Heidi Møller Eskildsen / cor