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”The Champions League quarter-final is unrealistic!”

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”The Champions League quarter-final is unrealistic!”

February 8, 2016

INTERVIEW – FC Midtjylland’s coach is close to giving up on the dream of proceeding from the main round of the 2016 Women´s Champions League.

By Peter Bruun

This season the quarter-finals of the Women´s EHF Champions League will be without Danish representation.  At least if you ask Helle Thomsen, coach of FC Midtjylland, the only Danish team in the main round.

“It is not realistic to expect us reaching the quarter-final, when you look at the make-up of the group we are in.”

“Teams like Buducnost, Gyor, Vardar and Bucuresti are all clubs who ought to be favorites to reach the FINAL4 and they maybe even be among the front runners to win the Champions League – in any event, they are all teams, who should be able to defeat us,” says Helle Thomsen, who led Midtjylland to the inaugural FINAL4 in the 2013-14 season.

It started so well for FC Midtjylland in this year’s Champions League tournament.  In the group phase, they pulled off a sensation by winning 26:21 on the road against Gyor and later on they robbed the Hungarian top team of another point, drawing 22:22 at home.

However, this was back in the fall of 2015, and since then things have gone downhill for the Danish champion who won the Cup Winners´ Cup last season.  They are still on top of the Danish league, but their results have been anything but great as of late.   Midtjylland’s most recent league game ended in a 20:17 defeat away against HC Odense, a club from the lower half of the league table.  The dismal score reveals one of Midtjylland’s particular problems that are rooted in the attack.  These issues were further emphasized on Sunday, when Midtjylland lost 28:18 at home to the ruling Champions League winner, Buducnost Podgorica.

The Danish top team never stood a chance against the visitors from Montenegro but Helle Thomsen denies that she and her players gave up on the game due to the challenges they are facing in Denmark’s domestic competition.

“Absolutely not!  We gave it all we had and in fact, I think we put more effort into this match, than we did against Odense last week.  It was just not enough.”

“Buducnost is a very good team and we knew in advance that it would be tough.  Therefore, we are not terribly disappointed because of the defeat, although I would have preferred to lose by a smaller margin – obviously.  Still, this does not hurt nearly as much as losing to Odense did,” Helle Thomsen told shortly after the loss against Buducnost.

Must win against Savehof

Considering the long absence of injured Danish international Louise Burgaard, Midtjylland´s struggles in attack are understandable.  Young Pauline Bøgelund has done well as a substitute on the right back position, but despite being a very promising talent, she neither possesses the experience, nor the physical strength yet, to cope with the best players in the world.  Such circumstances have forced coach Thomsen to play more minutes with three right-handed players in the back court line, harming the squad’s offensive rhythm.

Louise Burgaard was listed on the team sheet for the match against Buducnost, but she was never intended to play.

“Of course, things are more difficult without “Bur”, but we are not taking any chances with her.  We take one match at a time and see if she is fit,” explains Helle Thomsen, who is looking forward to a tough week.  Wednesday night, a home match in the Danish league against Ringkøbing and less than 48 hours later, another Champions League game is scheduled against IK Savehof.

A win against the pointless Swedish record champion is a simple must for FC Midtjylland, if their dream of reaching the quarter-final is to be kept alive.  Even though she does not find a quarter-final berth a realistic option, the coach is still dreaming.

“Of course, we will need a victory against Savehof.  Then, we will have to hope that Bucharest (CSM Bucuresti, ed.) does not win any of their remaining matches and that we will defeat them by at least four goals, explains Helle Thomsen her calculation.  FC Midtjylland will be hosting CSM Bucuresti on February 21.


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