Veterans showdown on the lineArticle
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FACE TO FACE: The duel between line players Torsten Laen and Julen Aguinagalde will be essential in the meeting between KIF Kolding Kobenhavn and KS Vive Tauron Kielce.

Veterans showdown on the line

Experience and physical strength will be some of qualities in focus, when Torsten Laen and Julen Aguinagalde come face to face this Sunday.

It will be 32-year-old Aguinagalde's 110 kg against 35-year-old Laen’s 96.

It will be 35-year-old Laen’s 198 cm against Aguinagalde's 195.

The duel between those two big line players may be decisive, when KIF Kolding København and KS Vive Tauron Kielce meet in VELUX EHF Champions League Group B.

Both players have a lot of experience at the highest level for their clubs as well as in their respective national teams.

Aguinagalde still plays for Spain, while Laen ended his national team career for Denmark a few years ago.

The have also both played for BM Ciudad Real, the Spanish top club which later vanished from the handball hemisphere.

Torsten Laen once said in an interview with Tom O’Brannigain, ehfTV commentator and blogger, that his two years at Ciudad Real were “to fill in the hole” until Aguinagalde could join the club.

“I do not know if it was like that. I am not Talant (Duishebaev, coach at Ciudad Real at the time and coach at Kielce now) says Julen Aguinagalde and laughs.

“Torsten played there for two years, and both times he won the Champions League. He was great, and I do not know the reason for making that change,” smiles Aguinagalde.

Similar styles

In fact, both players have many nice things to say about each other.

“There is no doubt that Aguinagalde is one of the absolutely best line players in the world at the moment.

“He is physically strong, and he is particularly good at setting screens. Apart from this, he is also a very likeable person, and that makes it a pleasure to play against him,” finds Torsten Laen.

Aguinagalde returns the compliment.

“He is a very good player. He has been playing in the Champions League for a long time and in the national team as well.

“He is very strong in the defence. He is very fast; he works very well in the counter attacks. He has a good grip of the ball and moves very well on the line.

“He is very versatile. He could be a back; he plays in the central defence.

“To me, he is one of the best line players in the world. We both learned from the Spanish school of play. Actually, we play in a very similar way,” Julen Aguinagalde tells

No point in physical fight

In the KIF defence, it will be a job for Torsten Laen and his partner in the central defence, Lars Jørgensen, to try and keep Aguinagalde out of the game, if that is possible at all.

At least, Laen believes to have the recipe.

“There is no point for me in entering into any kind of physical fight with him. I would never be able to handle him that way. That will be more of a job for Lars Jørgensen.

“In my case, it is a question of getting around him, and it will be better to move a bit away from him, so that he cannot set the screens he likes so much to set,” explains Torsten Laen and Julen Aguinagalde agrees.

“It is easier for a line player, if he has a bit of weight and power as well.

“For me, the best solution is to have him behind my back and work with my legs and my strength,” he says.

Even though Torsten Laen realises, that Julen Aguinagalde is one of his team's most dangerous opponents Sunday afternoon in Copenhagen, he also sees an advantage for his team in the way, the big Spaniard is playing in the Kielce team.

From the latest videos I have seen on Kielce, I have noticed that he is playing in the defence too these days.

“Apparently, that is the way Talant wants to make use of him, and maybe we can benefit from the time it will take him to get back into the defence, especially in our counter attacks, of which I hope we get the chance to run a lot,” says Laen.

Two teams in need of a win

The Sunday match in Brondby will be a meeting between two teams who are both in need of a win.

To Kielce, a defeat against KIF will not only mean that the Polish champions lose touch with the top of the group, it will also mean that they get in danger of not qualifying for the Last 16 at all, as the distance to the bottom will suddenly be alarmingly small.

To KIF, a win is needed in order to boost the Danish champions’ hope of qualifying for the next stage.

“There is no doubt that we will need a few more points, apart from the four points, we simply have to get in our matches against Montpellier and Kristianstad later in the tournament, and our match against Kielce seems to be one where we have a chance. I hope that we will have the majority of our injured players fit for the match,” says Torsten Laen.

Although Kolding Kobenhavn are last in the group, four points after Kielce, Julen Aguinagalde expects a tough match in Brondbyhallen by Copenhagen late Sunday afternoon

“They have a very good team, it will be very difficult for us. There is a different solution for each opposing team, now we have to find one for them,” he concludes.

TEXT: Peter Bruun, Magda Pluszewska / cor