Ljubomir Vranjes: “Sweden impressed me a lot”


22 January 2017

World champion in 1999 and three-time European champion between 1998 and 2002, Ljubomir Vranjes was one of the stars of the golden Swedish generation in the 1990s. Consultant for Eurosport during this World Championship, the former centre back gives his feedback on the first round and speaks about the current Swedish team, which made a very good start in the tournament.

Which team impressed you the most during the first round?

Ljubomir Vranjes: “I have to say Sweden. They impressed me a lot, they have a young team and some experience too. I think they had a great group phase. They have a new coach who brought a new style of play. They have a good defence and two very good goalkeepers, and they like to run a lot. They’re very effective on fast breaks and can keep it up for a very long time in the games.”

Do you think this young generation of players could be, in the future, as successful as you were in the 1990s?

“I hope so, they’re on a good path. But I think also that they need some more players at that level. They maybe have seven or eight players that are playing in great European clubs, but they need a wider squad to be able to be as competitive as France or Denmark. They need three or four more players at that level, and they need to gain experience too, of course.”

So do you think those of the young players who are still playing in Sweden, like right back Albin Lagergren, should go to big clubs in the next months?

“Maybe. They’re in one tournament. It’s one thing when you don’t know the players, and it’s another thing when you play for a lot of years, and the opponents saw you a lot and could analyse your game. But Swedish players are good tactically, they play for the team, so I think that they will do a good job, no matter where they play.”

According to you, what was the biggest surprise since the beginning of the tournament?

“I don’t think there were many surprises actually. Some games were surprising, like the Chile win over Belarus, but when you look at the whole picture, the results of this first round were pretty normal. It suprised me that Denmark aren’t playing as good as I thought, but they still won the group, that’s a strength. Slovenia, Croatia, Spain played good during this first round. And Germany impressed me, I think they’re going to be really dangerous for France.”

So who’s your favourite for the final win?

“France. They’re playing at home and they have a very wide squad. They have so many players that can win the game for them. There are a lot of games to play in this tournament, in very short time, so I think the widest rosters will prevail. So France at the top, with Denmark, and Germany just behind, as they have a good defence and two very good goalkeepers.”

Who is the revelation of the tournament so far?

“Some new players made a good impression, like the line player of Belarus, Artsem Karalek or the Hungarian Adam Juhasz. Some young Norwegians as well and the Danish Kirkelokke, who had a very good game against Qatar. I would also add Egyptian left back Yehia Elderaa. But of course, these young players need time to improve their game.”

Who would be your MVP of the first round ?

“I would pick one per position. Niklas Landin as goalkeeper, Uwe Gensheimer as left winger, Kristian Bjornsen as right winger, Kiril Lazarov as right back, Nikola Karabatic as centre back, Artsem Karalek as line player and Jim Gottfridsson as left back.”

How do you find the atmosphere at the AccorHotels Arena where you stayed during all first round?

“We’re here for approximately ten days and the first game between France and Brazil was fantastic, with a great atmosphere. There were only one or two games during which I thought the atmosphere wasn’t fantastic. So one or two from the sixteen games played in Paris, it’s nothing. The first game was fully crowded, it was a big moment. So I think the Organizing Committee did a great job.”

Photo : Julien Crosnier/France Handball 2017