INTERVIEW – When Kiel could no longer become German champion; coach Gislason used the remaining Bundesliga matches to experiment ahead of the FINAL4.
By Peter Bruun
It is the first time in the history of handball that we will hear this. And most likely it will be the only time. A German team has been using Bundesliga matches as preparation for an EHF FINAL4 tournament!
This is what THW Kiel have done – and their head coach admits it openly. Usually, German teams are known for not assigning higher priority to the Champions League than to the Bundesliga – to say the least. But the circumstances in Kiel make for a special case.
“When we no longer had the chance to become German champion, we have used the last Bundesliga matches to try some experiments with regards to the FINAL4 – kind of a preparation,” head coach Alfred Gislason tells stregspiller.com.
“First and foremost, it has been a question of resting some players, but we also took the opportunity to test some alternatives in our central defense, especially in our most recent Bundesliga match in Melsungen (30:29 for Melsungen) – I think we will benefit from this in the FINAL4,” says Gislason who feels certain to see his team improve in Cologne after three successive defeats in the Bundesliga.
Accepting the role as underdog
“Of course, we are the underdog this year.
“We are missing some crucial players due to injury, and we are facing one of the absolute top favorites in the semi-final in the form of Veszprém.
“However, we have played two close matches against them this season already.
“In the group phase, we lost by two goals on the road, while winning by one at home – so I definitely see some opportunities for us.
“Part of the reason why we have lost our three most recent Bundesliga games is the factor that I mentioned before – that we used a couple of those matches for some experiments and testing ahead of the FINAL4 competition.
“There is no doubt that Veszprém are favorites tomorrow, but we certainly believe in our chance!” says Kiel´s Icelandic coach.
Not sure of the support from the crowd
It has often been said that German teams have a natural home court advantage at the FINAL4, as the event is taking place in Germany. However, Alfred Gislason is not that sure that it will be a significant advantage for his crew to play in Cologne.
“Handball fans from all over Europe – and even beyond – are coming to Cologne for this event, and not everyone will be supporting us.
“For instance, Veszprém fans can always be heard anywhere they go in the world, and this will also be the case this weekend.
“In fact, I expect every team that is playing at the Lanxess Arena to get about 25% of the support, so I am absolutely not sure we will be at an advantage,” says Gislason.