“Our goal is to compete with the best players in the world”
March 3, 2023
By Sascha Staat
Per Johansson saw his Dutch team defeat the Czech Republic by eight goals on the first day of the Golden League, in Eindhoven, but he wasn’t totally satisfied. Afterwards he was critical about his team’s defense effort and how the return of several experienced players will help his side grow.
First of all, congratulations. Are you satisfied how the first half went?
PJ: We were not content with our defense. Our goal is to compete with the best players in the world, yet we could not handle Marketa Jerabkova. Overall, I think the attack was quiet good during the game and the fast breaks were OK.
With Kelly Dulfer you have one of the best defense players in the world, but you were still not able to find the right solutions”
PJ: No, we didn’t – in defense you need to cooperate with each other. Instead we allowed Jerabkova too much space and we didn’t help each other. The second half was much better, though.
It was already an issue at the 2022 EHF EURO – I recall the game against Germany, were you had a lot of problems in defense as well.
PJ: I think during a long championship you need to rotate more. When players like Lois Abbingh come back it’s easier for me to maintain a high standard all the time. Still, against the Czech Republic we were up and down and we need to be better.
I don’t know if you watched the first game between Denmark and Norway. How does your team compare with possibly the two best teams in the world, alongside with France?
PJ: I think those two teams and France are on a higher level and more stable, right now. But, the fourth semifinal spot is totally open. It can be us, it can be Sweden, Germany – it’s absolutely open. On Saturday, we have a big opportunity to show what we are capable of. Yet, during a championship it’s all about playing seven, eight games on a good level.
You already mentioned before the comeback of Lois Abbingh and Estavana Polman returned just before the European Championship…
PJ: Yes – especially Estavana already is in a much better form. One year ago, she didn’t play much because she had a conflict with her coach. Now, she’s getting better and better and in Bucarest she is in a challenging environment.
Dione Housherr was injured during the championship run and didn’t find her level. So, there are many pieces to the puzzle. Larissa Nusser (center back ed.) will also come back and Tess Wester will challenge our goalkeepers.
All in all, I will more players to choose from. I am not saying that everything will improve immediately, but during the EHF EURO we rotated with only four back court players and that is difficult.
Defense aside what else needs to improve?
PJ: I think our mental readiness will be important in the games against Norway and Denmark. In last year’s last Golden League we beat Norway by nine and Denmark by eight goals. I think they want to take revenge and show that they are better than us. My team understands that those two games will be very important for us.