Olsson: "We can still reach the EHF FINAL4"Article
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: The top scorer of Skjern Håndbold is confident that the Danish side can make up a six-goal deficit against Nantes from the first quarter-final leg
»2017-18 Men's News

Olsson: "We can still reach the EHF FINAL4"

“If we can provide the same effort like we did in our Last 16 matches against Veszprém, I definitely still see a chance for us to reach the FINAL4.”

The words come from Markus Olsson, Swedish left back at Skjern Håndbold, after the Danish league winners lost the first leg of the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final 33:27 away to HBC Nantes.

Skjern have far from given up yet

Nantes want to make history by reaching the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the first time, but so do Skjern, and the team from the village in the far west of Jutland have far from given up yet.

“The match in Nantes Sunday evening was a tough one, not least mentally,” Olsson says. “We made too many technical mistakes, especially in the first half. We never really reached the level we have shown so many times before this season.”

The closing stages of the match in Nantes, however, give Olsson hope for a positive outcome when both teams meet again on Sunday at 16:50 hrs (live on ehfTV.com).

Skjern reduced their deficit from 10 goals with 12 minutes left to six goals at the end.

“That meant a lot. Mainly to our mathematical chance in the return game, but also to our moral,” the left back says. “Nantes did not turn out better than we expected. They are a relatively young, but very solid team. They are not invincible.”

The 28-year-old backcourt player was his team’s most scoring player with six goals on Sunday and is now sharing the first place in the Champions League goal scorers’ list with PSG left wing Uwe Gensheimer. Each have 84 goals so far.

Becoming top scorer, however, is not something that is on Olsson’s mind all the time.

“It is not that important who scores the goals, as long as they are scored,” he says. “None of us in Skjern were expecting to get this far, so I have not been thinking at all of the chance to be top scorer.”

Olsson hails his team for “forming a very strong unit this season, and this is probably the reason why we have made it this far.”

"Both efforts are historic"

Olsson joined Skjern from IFK Kristianstad in 2015. His last match before making the trip westward was the final of the Swedish championship against defending champions Alingsas.

Olsson scored 11 goals to make a crucial contribution to Kristianstad’s 28:25 win, which gave the South Swedish team the national title for the first time in 62 years.

“It is actually hard for me to say if reaching the Champions League Quarter-final with Skjern is bigger than winning the Swedish championship with Kristianstad back then,” Olsson says. “Both efforts are historic. Reaching the quarter-final is probably a greater effort but winning an entire league is also remarkable.”

Olsson will see a lot more of French handball from next season when he will join the current No. 8 in the French league, Fenix Toulouse.

“My feelings about this change are a bit mixed at the moment. I do look forward to going to France and playing in the French league. But on the other hand, it will be hard to leave Skjern and all the great people I have got to know here,” says Olsson, adding he had “three fantastic years in Skjern, where I have developed a lot.”

Hoping for enthusiastic support from the fans

But first, Olsson wants to make history with Skjern once again, this time by reaching the VELUX EHF FINAL4. The top scorer is aware his team will need a performance like it had against Veszprém in the Last 16.

“I definitely see a chance to catch up with those six goals,” he says. “We have a strong home ground, where we have won all our Champions League matches this season, and even won them all clearly.”

Olsson hopes for enthusiastic support from the fans in the Skjern Bank Arena.

“Moreover, we will need to minimise our mistakes. The shots that hit the goalposts in Nantes will have to hit the net on Sunday. And finally, we need more saves from our goalkeepers,” Olsson says. “If we can achieve all that, I still believe we can reach the FINAL4. It is not over yet.”

TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew