INTERVIEW – Niklas Landin is fully aware that his goalkeeping will have to be superb, for Denmark to be successful at the upcoming European championship, in Croatia.
The experienced goalkeeper from Kiel is up to the task and reassures stregspiller.com that he is extremely hungry for a title after the disappointment at the 2017 World Cup.
By Peter Bruun
Niklas Landin is what the Germans call “Hoffnungsträger” – a pillar supporting a team’s hopes, someone who can carry the squad when the going gets tough.
Everyone agrees that the 29-year-old goalkeeper from THW Kiel will have to do well, in Denmark’s quest for success at the EHF EURO 2018. The tournament starts in Croatia, in a few days. For the Danes, it all begins on Saturday night, January 13, with the match against Hungary in Varazdin – and Landin is ready.
“Actually, I feel more rested than usual at this time of the season.
“Our December in Kiel was far less hectic and with fewer matches what we are used to.
“Furthermore, it always gives me fresh energy after coming home from a national team get-together and meet up with all the guys again.
“When I am with the national team, I focus entirely on the task at hand, and I do not think about a possibly tough schedule in Kiel,” explains Niklas Landin who has particularly fond memories of the Balkan.
The last time there was a major men´s handball tournament in the region was the European championship, in Serbia, in 2012. And as we probably all remember Denmark became European champion for a second time in their history. The event also marked Landin´s first major competition with the national team.
In the meantime, he has advanced significantly and became the captain of the ruling Olympic champion. He doesn’t hide the fact that this circumstance will make another title even more important to him personally.
“It will mean a lot because now we have a rather new squad compared to 2012, although a number of players from back then are still on the team.
“We are always hungry for titles, especially me.
“Even though we are the Olympic champion, we have not finished at the top, not at the most recent European championship, or at the 2017 World Cup. This motivates us even more to be part of the fun again this time around,” he says.
“I see good chances to play an important role in this competition.
“We have a very homogeneous team with a lot of experienced players, who are familiar with the intensity of games at the top level – it’s all part of their daily life in their respective clubs. So, I definitely see our team as a top contender.
“However, Europe’s handball elite gets closer all the time the way I see it, and there are many nations that can beat each other on a good day.
“Still, the bottom line is that we should play the final weekend in Zagreb,” finds the 201 cm tall Danish shot-stopper.
New coach means a lot
The 2018 European championship will be Denmark´s first with Nikolaj Jacobsen as national coach.
The “Zaubermaus” from Rhein-Neckar Löwen took over after Gudmundur Gudmundssons stepped down, following Denmark´s disappointing World Cup in France.
“He has introduced some new elements in offense and added more variety when we play defense.
“In general, there is more control with him compared to what we were used to, and I am really looking forward to seeing it work in a long tournament like the European championship,” says Niklas Landin about the former left wing of Team Denmark.
On the club level, Nikolaj Jacobsen is a true success story. After winning the Danish championship with Aalborg Handbold, he went on to Germany, leading Rhein-Neckar Löwen to their first German championship in 2016, while repeating the triumph one year later before becoming “Herbst Meister” with the same team this season. What makes him different?
“He literally possesses all the qualities a good coach should have.
“He is truly compassionate, but at the same time he is extremely serious and disciplined, in particular when he is not happy with what he sees on the court.
“Of course, we should not forget that Rhein-Neckar Löwen are a really good team, but he deserves a lot of credit nevertheless. In addition to what I said already, he is a skilled tactician and it is to his advantage that he has been in tough situations as a top notch player himself,” finds Landin.
Opposition is tough, but not impossible to overcome
Apart from Hungary – they will be Denmark´s opponent in the opening game in Croatia – the Danes will be up against Spain and the Czech Republic in their preliminary group.
“Obviously, it is a very strong group.
“We should not forget that we were eliminated by the Hungarians in the Round of Last 16 at the World Championship a year ago, and we all know how good Spain is.
“They are always strong, no matter what team they show up with. They appear a bit younger, compared to previous competitions, but they are still very strong.
“At first sight, I see the Czechs as the weakest team in our group, but they are certainly not a bad crew. It’s not a given that we’ll take four points with us to the main round. Still, it’s what we are aiming for,” says Niklas Landin who can look forward to a possible main round group including the ruling champion Germany as well as two more Balkan teams. Slovenia, FYR Macedonia and Montenegro are the candidates.
“These upcoming battles are the reason why I find it so important that we take four points with us from the preliminary round.
“Of course, we know that Germany are very strong, and playing against Balkan teams on “home ground” is always harder than facing them elsewhere in the world.
“That is why we will do everything to collect these four points,” sounds the analysis from Landin who is looking forward to a probable meeting against Germany where he earns his daily living.
Germany – always special
“It is always something special to play against the country where you earn your paycheck, especially when you know the players so well.
“Germany is our neighbor, and of course, there are a lot of players who we would all love to defeat.
“Yet, when you stand on the court, and the match is about to begin, you only think about winning at any cost, no matter who your opponent is.
“In any event, we have to take them as they come if we want to go all the way, and that is exactly what we want.
“Our hunger for a title is enormous,” Niklas Landin reassures.