Six reasons why KIF Kolding Kobenhavn are strugglingArticle
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FIRST INSIGHT: There are many possible reasons for the Danish champions’ slow start in the group phase, but maybe some of them can be helped!

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Six reasons why KIF Kolding Kobenhavn are struggling

The have suffered three straight defeats - even three clear defeats.

KIF Kolding Kobenhavn have got off to the worst possible start in the VELUX EHF Champions League group since their debut in the group phase back in the 1994-95 season.

If the Danish do not make it to the Last 16, it will also be the first time since their first group phase appearance that they do not manage to progress.

KIF are not only struggling in the VELUX EHF Champions League, but in the domestic league as well, drawing recently 24:24 at home against Mors Thy Handbold, a team placed toward the end of the table, and this was already the seventh loss for the ruling champions this season.

There could be many reasons could explain KIF’s troublesome season so far.

Some might point at the age of some of the players as a problem, but there is really nothing you can change there until next season.

Instead, let us focus on the ones that can be helped, or can at least be helped to a certain degree.

Reason no. 1: Injuries

The squad has been hit by an alarmingly high number of injuries at an unusually early point of the season.

Last year, the club lost their brilliant physical trainer Jose Luis Hernandez to cancer, and judging by the frequency of injuries lately, he seems to be severely missed.

However, his ideas and principles cannot have been completely forgotten by the coaching staff, who should probably consider implementing them, if it is not being done already.

Reason no. 2: Narrow squad

Obviously, injuries are felt more in a narrow squad than in a deep roster, where you have substitutes in all positions.

KIF´s squad is not deep, to say the least.

The squad is even narrower than last season, as no replacement has been brought in for Lasse Boesen who is now sports director at the club.

This means the squad is one player short, and when compared to last season, this is significant because the Champions League Group Phase consists of four more matches this season - increasing the strain on the players.

Konstantin Igropulo has been signed as replacement for Kim Andersson in right back, but the Russian international with the Greek roots has fell short of those expectations so far.

We will come back to the reasons for that.

However, this is also a situation, which can still be helped.

There are still players on the market. And KIF also recently proved this fact, bringing in Kristian Asmussen as a back-up to Kasper Hvidt in goal, when Marcus Cleverly was sidelined for an unknown amount of time with a back injury.

Reason no. 3: Lack of shooters

KIF are suffering from the lack of at least one real backcourt shooter.

A player who can hammer the ball into the net from 10-12 meters distance.

All their current back court players have to more or less breakthrough in order to fire their shots, and this obviously eases the working conditions for the opposing defence.

Kim Andersson was one of those players who could shoot from this distance – when he was not injured – and Igropulo is too, to a certain extent, but he is not available at the moment, which we are going to come back to.

However, there are also shooters on the market.

KIF were probably not in the financial league to make a bid for Sharhei Rutenka, when the Belarusian star had his contract with Barcelona cancelled recently, and maybe Rutenka would not even have wanted to move to Denmark, but there are other options, that they should keep their eyes open for in the future.

Reason no. 4: Igropulo’s appendix

Expectations were high as Konstantin Igropulo was signed from Füchse Berlin, not least after his brilliant performance in the EHF Cup final against HSV Hamburg.

So far, however, the 30-year-old Russian has not lived up to those expectations.

Recently we got the probably explanation: Igropulo was suffering from belly pain.

He had his appendix removed while he was still living in Germany, but the pain did not disappear, and examinations in the hospital in Kolding showed that a remainder of the appendix was still left in Igropulo’s abdomen.

This has now been removed, and when Tino, as he is nicknamed in KIF returns to the handball court, there is reason to hope that he will becomes the reinforcement he was expected to be.

Reason no. 5: Neglected counter attacks

KIF still have a strong defence, but too often, they miss out on reaping the rewards from their strong defensive work.

For many years, the counter attacks were one of the most outspoken virtues in the KIF team, but lately the counter attack has been neglected surprisingly.

With players such as Magnus Landin, Kasper Irming and Simon Jensen, they still have great assets for their counter attacks.

It only seems to be a question of making some more use of them.

Reason no. 6: Loss of DNA

What has been KIF’s DNA in practically all the 12 previous seasons, of the Champions League?

A tremendous will to win! Since their Champions League debut, an impressive winning culture has formed almost a tradition in the team throughout the past two decades.

It has been this extreme winning culture which has enabled KIF to defeat teams like Flensburg, Hamburg, Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Kielce and Plock and which has earned them draws against Barcelona and Kiel.

This winning mentality cannot have vanished over summer, so if KIF can rediscover this, the Last 16 might still not be an impossible task.

Does Henrik Kronborg have to fear for his job?

No, he does not, partly because there is not really a tradition for sacking coaches in KIF.

Three coach dismissals within the 31 years since the club has been in the Danish top flight, so this can hardly be said to be a ‘sacking-tradition’.

Peter Bruun

Peter Bruun has been a journalist for 32 year, for the first 16 years working as a radio journalist and broadcaster, since then mainly as a web journalist, and he was one of the first to pass the exam as web journalist from the Danish Journalists High School.

For most of his time as a journalist, sports have played a major part in his work, and lately, handball and football have been the dominating areas he has covered.

For the EHF, he is correspondent for Scandinavia, and he also covers the VELUX EHF Champions League as well as the Women's EHF Champions League and the various EHF Cup competitions. He has also covered the Women´s EHF EURO 2012 and 2014 as well as the Men´s EHF EURO 2014 and the Men´s 2015 World Championship.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / bc