Esbjerg hope to reach first quarter-finalArticle
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DELO WOMEN'S EHF Champions League Countdown #10: Team Esbjerg (DEN). The Danish champions are hoping to reach the quarter-finals, but their first aim is to reach the main round
»2019-20 Women's News

Esbjerg hope to reach first quarter-final

After losing the WOMEN'S EHF Cup final to Siófok KC Hungary last season, Team Esbjerg are back in the Champions League and ready for their second campaign in the top flight, after reaching the main round in their maiden season in 2016/17.

While their main ambition this season is winning the Danish championship for the second time in succession, their objectives are more modest when it comes to the DELO WOMEN'S EHF Champions League. While they hope to reach the quarter-finals, the goal is to reach the main round.

Three questions before the season:

What will five players departing and only two players joining mean for Esbjerg?

Players like goalkeeper Sandra Toft and playmaker Kristina Liscevic are not easily replaced. The loss of players has meant that Esbjerg's squad has less depth, but as head coach Jesper Jensen usually prefers to play with the same team, the disadvantage may not be as big as expected -– as long as the key players can keep up the steam.

How will losing Sandra Toft affect Esbjerg this season?

Sandra Toft was an essential player for Esbjerg and losing the Danish national team's first-choice goalkeeper obviously leaves a gap in the team. Former Denmark goalkeeper Rikke Poulsen, who has arrived from league rivals Viborg HK, will face a big challenge replacing her former national team colleague.

What can Esbjerg achieve in the DELO Women´s EHF Champions League this season?

The Danish champions have ended up in a tough group. Their opponents in group B will be Rostov-Don, CSM Bucuresti and MKS Perla Lublin. If they make it to the main round, they will run into the three best teams from group A, which consists of Metz Handball, Vipers Kristiansand, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and HC Podravka Vegeta.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the club's expectations are relatively modest.

“Our goal is to qualify for the main round. If we succeed, we hope to get enough points to be in the competition for the quarter-final,” said team manager Thomas Hylle.

"We are in a very strong group with two of the absolute top clubs in Europe: CSM Bucuresti and Rostov-Don. The last team in the group, Lublin, are – like ourselves – one of the new clubs in the Champions League,” added Hylle.

Line player Marit Malm Frafjord shares his respect for Esbjerg's group opponents.

“CSM have a lot of new players this season and are for me one of the top four teams in the tournament this year, so it will for sure be two hard matches. It will be a great atmosphere and I am really looking forward to being back in Bucharest to play.

"Rostov-Don are again for me one of the top four teams this year. They have a lot of great players and also have one of the best coaches in the Champions League.

“I do not know so much about MKS Perla Lublin yet, but we know they are a good team. This will probably be the team we have to beat to have the opportunity to go to the main round,” said the experienced Norwegian international about Esbjerg's group rivals.

Under the spotlight: Estavana Polman

As she has already been for several seasons, the 27-year-old Dutch international will be a crucial player for Team Esbjerg again.

Not only is she a versatile back court player who can play left back or as a playmaker, and not only does she possess an awesome shot and a great ability to find openings in the opposing defence, but her experience and her spirit are also qualities which will come in useful to Esbjerg again this season.


While seeing themselves as a team who belong in Europe, Team Esbjerg also realise that they are in for a tough challenge in the EHF Champions League this season.

“We are in a very tough group, but we are still aiming for the main round. We hope to be a tough opponent to every team we meet, and then we will just have to see how far it will take us,” said Marit Malm Frafjord. 

The team manager emphasised the importance of the Champions League to the club and is aware of the impression Team Esbjerg can make through the competition.

“Team Esbjerg wants to be one of the top teams in the national league and to be in the Champions League as often as possible.

“This is of great importance to the city of Esbjerg, to the board of the club, the coach, the players and the fans, who would like to play against and to see the best players in Europe our arena, Blue Water Dokken,” said Thomas Hylle.

Fun fact

Head coach Jesper Jensen has previous Champions League experience – but it is from the men's Champions League. From 2014 to 2016, he was head coach of Aalborg Handball, whom he reached the Last 16 with in the VELUX EHF Champions League 2014/15 season.

He also has Champions League experience as a player from his time with Skjern Handbold.

What the numbers say

Team Esbjerg have no fewer than six Norwegian players in their squad: goalkeeper Rikke Marie Granlund, right wing Marit Røsberg Jacobsen, left back Kristine Breistøl, left wing Sanna Solberg and line players Marit Malm Frafjord and Vilde Mortensen Ingstad.

Team Esbjerg (DEN)

Qualified for the DELO WOMEN´S EHF Champions League 2019/20 season: Danish champions

Newcomers: Rikke Poulsen (Viborg HK), Sonja Frey (Paris 92)

Left the club: Sandra Toft (Brest Bretagne Handball), Emma Nielsen (retired), Ida Björndalen Karlsson (retired), Marie Mose Vestergaard (TTH Holstebro), Kristina Liscevic (SCM Ramnicu Valcea)

Coach: Jesper Jensen (since 2017)

DELO WOMEN'S EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2019/20 season): 3
Main round (1): 2016/17
Qualification tournament (1): 2015/16

Other EC records:

Cup Winners' Cup:
Last 16 (1): 2012/13
Round 3 (1): 2015/16

EHF Cup:
Final (2): 2013/14, 2018/19
Quarter-final (2): 2010/11, 2014/15
Last 16 (1): 2011/12

Danish league:
2 titles (2016, 2019)

Danish Cup:
1 title (2017)

TEXT: Peter Bruun / jw