20 January 2017
Henrik Toft Hansen talks about the Olympic champions’ campaign so far, their match against Bahrain and defence against an unfamiliar opponent.
As 2016 Olympic champions, Denmark entered the 25th IHF Men’s World Championship as one of the favourite to win the title – and have shown they are in just the form to make it to the podium with a squad largely unchanged since their historic victory in Rio de Janeiro five months ago, a progression in tactics from coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson, and most of their key players still at the top of their game and fitness.
After they won the first-ever gold medal in the men’s Olympic handball competition, the only major international title to elude the Danes is the World Championship, but with four wins from four matches so far at France 2017 and a strong possibility to finish as the top-ranked team in Group D, they have already taken an important step in the right direction.
Henrik Toft Hansen received the Player of the Match award for his role in their 30:26 victory against Bahrain in round four, which included six of his goals and a trademark strong performance in defence against a style of play very different to that the Scandinavian team are used to.
What do you think about Denmark’s campaign so far?
Henrik Toft Hansen: “Four games, four victories – it couldn’t be better. Well, of course, the game today (against Bahrain) could have been better. But I’m satisfied that we won against Sweden also, and now we’re ready for the last group match against Qatar — then hopefully we will be number one in the group.”
Did you expect the match against Bahrain to be so close?
Henrik Toft Hansen: “No, I hoped we would come out and a good first half but we played OK. We had to play a lot in defence in this game and they came to some possibilities where it was maybe closer than before, but in the end we won and of course we’re satisfied with it.”
You played against Qatar at Rio 2016 so you know them quite well. What do you expect from this match?
Henrik Toft Hansen: “It’s a different team I think – some players are not with them this time. They also don’t play the same style of handball we play in Scandinavia so we have to be sharp when we play against them! We saw that in the World Championship two years ago.”
You are a vital part of Denmark’s defence. How do you adjust when playing a team like Bahrain, with a very different style to that you are used to?
Henrik Toft Hansen: “We have to adjust it (our defence) a lot in the game, and of course we talk a lot in the defence about what we have to do – do we have to go further forward and tackle a little more, do we have to stay a little more in the defence [on the line]. But in the end, we just have to fight. It was a match in which we were the big favourites before the game, and we have to play the 60 minutes.”
Photos: J. CROSNIER / Francehandball2017