Flash quotes: TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 2024 media calls

Flash quotes: TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 2024 media calls

COLOGNE — Comments at the media calls ahead of the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4, from Aalborg Håndbold coach Stefan Madsen (DEN), goalkeeper Niklas Landin (DEN) and left back Henrik Møllgaard (DEN); Barça coach Carlos Ortega (ESP), right back Dika Mem (FRA) and goalkeeper Emil Nielsen (DEN); SC Magdeburg coach Bennet Wiegert (GER), line player Magnus Saugstrup (DEN) and goalkeeper Sergey Hernandez (ESP); and THW Kiel coach Filip Jicha (CZE), left back Eric Johansson (SWE) and line player Petter Överby. 

THW Kiel

Filip Jicha (CZE) — head coach

On the Kiel vs Barça classic:

“We saw a lot of them in the Champions League, that’s for sure. It’s a confrontation between two of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s amazing to see them both perform at such a high level and it’s also a great memory for me, as we beat Barça on our way to the trophy in 2020. Maybe this year will be different. We’ll see.”

On the reasons Kiel have been inconsistent this season:

“We’ve been trying to rebuild our team. A lot of players are very young and this is the reason why we have been able to deliver one game and play at a lower level three days after. It’s hard, especially in the Bundesliga, where you can lose against anyone. We have been gathering a lot of good experience in the Champions League this season and it will be useful for us in the next seasons.”

On the status THW Kiel have at this EHF FINAL4:

“Of course, after the season we have had, we are not the favourites that we might have sometimes been in the past. But we do not have anything to lose. We showed this season that, in one game, we were able to beat anyone. So there is no reason why we would not be able to beat Barça tomorrow for example. We just have to play at our best and I’m sure we’ll be able to compete.”

Eric Johansson (SWE) — left back  

On his season individually:

“I think it’s been a great one. I had a lot of responsibilities. I’m thankful for those, but I tried to honour them the best I could. Collectively, it’s been a lot of ups and downs. We lost a lot of games in the Bundesliga, but we did good in the Champions League. Hopefully we can keep that momentum with us this weekend.”

On the semi-final against Barça:

“Tough one, to be honest, but I don’t think it would have been any easier to play Aalborg or Magdeburg. Huge fight ahead, and I think that the team that will play the more physical will go ahead. Of course, it will be about slowing down Dika Mem, but I don’t think you can completely shut him down. Nobody has been able to do it this season. We’ll try to be the first ones tomorrow.”

On the EHF FINAL4 being the only way for Kiel to get a trophy:

“When you play for Kiel, you want to win every game you play, so of course we want to win this weekend. The [EHF] FINAL4 is always a little bit special, different from the rest of the season, so we will forget the rest and just focus on the semi-final.”

Petter Överby (NOR) — line player

On the semi-final tomorrow:

“It’s going to be a tough game against one of the best teams in Europe. We will have to be at our best to beat them, but I’m sure they are not too happy to play against us either. We managed to overturn the situation in the quarter-finals. We beat Paris and Kielce in the group phase. It’s not like we are not easy to play against.”

On how to stop Barça:

“We know Dika Mem is one of their best players, but they also have two amazing goalkeepers, some amazing wingers. It will not be easy. The focus will probably be to be as strong as possible defensively and try to get past their defence. As long as we will be able to do that, I believe in our chances.”

On the miracle to be here:

“It’s not a miracle, but it showed how mentally strong we are. We needed to be to turn around this bad situation and of course, it showed everyone how strong we could be. That gave us some more confidence, even though we were not able to perform in the Bundesliga, and we can have use this weekend.”

SC Magdeburg

Magnus Saugstrup (DEN) — line player

On playing against Aalborg, his former club, in the semi-final:

“It’s nice to see them performing well. There are a couple of friends in the team so it’s great to see them in the hotel. We exchanged a few messages, but that’s it. No one will be friends on the court tomorrow. We’ll all have the same goal: To qualify for the final.”

On Magdeburg being the favourites this season:

“This is something I have heard a bit, but it does not mean anything. Just because we are there twice in a row does not make us favourites. Of course, we’re title holders, but that does not change much. Are we bigger favourites than the other three teams here? I don’t think so.”

On how to beat Aalborg in the semi-final:

“They have great players in all positions, really great defence and amazing goalkeepers. I think it will come down to who does the least technical errors. If you lose the ball against Aalborg, you know they are going to punish you. But in the meantime, we can play very fast as well, so we have our chances. It will be a great game. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Sergey Hernandez (ESP) — goalkeeper 

On the opportunity to win four trophies in the same season:

“It would be amazing for us, the players, but especially for the fans and for the people working behind the scenes at the club. Of course, we want to write history. We would be the most successful Magdeburg team in decades. It could be amazing, but the task this weekend will be as big as winning the Bundesliga.”

On returning to LANXESS arena after winning the German Cup a few months ago:

“That was great preparation, and hopefully we can be as successful. It was a crazy experience playing there in March, especially winning it with our fans in the stands. I heard there would be as many of them this weekend, so really, that was good preparation.”

On the semi-final tomorrow:

“Nothing [else] matters now. We forget the quarter-finals and the group phase. It’s almost a new competition starting. One always says that all the teams have equal chances to win, but we have seen the Cologne miracle so many times that it might happen again this weekend. I was in front of the TV last year. It was crazy, and I hope I can have it on the court now.”

Bennet Wiegert (GER) — head coach

On celebrating the Bundesliga title last weekend:

“It was over on Sunday night, to be honest. Of course, we are really happy we won the league again but, in the meantime, I told the players it was better to save up and to do everything to win another title this season — the fourth one for us. We have been really focusing on this weekend and we are really looking forward to the games.”

On the importance of being back in Cologne:

“It’s huge. It shows that last season was not just a surprise, but that we really deserved our title. It’s really important for the club to come back and this is something we have to be really proud about.”

On how the status of SC Magdeburg might have changed:

“Maybe we are a little bit more favourites than we were last year, but it does not change anything. At the end of the day, you still have to win both games to win the title, no matter how much people around expect you to do it. We have to show that the hopes and the expectations that people put into us were right.”


Carlos Ortega (ESP) — head coach

On how THW vs Barça has become a classic in the EHF Champions League:

“To me, both are the two biggest clubs in the world. Maybe not the best teams, but the biggest clubs, with the most history in the handball world. It’s a classic of handball. We play against each other a lot, whether it’s here or in the group phase of the Champions League. It’s hard to figure out a favourite for tomorrow’s game.”

On what could be Barça’s strength in tomorrow’s game:

“We play fast, we play aggressive, we are good in defence. To be honest, we have a lot of strengths, but so do Kiel. It’s going to be really hard, but we have proved over the season we were able to beat some of the biggest sides in Europe.”

On the pressure Barça feel before the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4:

“When you are wearing the Barça jersey, you have to win it. It’s part of the contract, part of the deal. We know we don’t come to Cologne to finish third. But I think it’s been the same for years. It’s nothing new. Most of the players in my squad have been there for a few seasons now, so they are used to it and I guess it won’t be a problem for them this weekend.”

Dika Mem (FRA) — right back

On what kind of game he expects against Kiel:

“A very physical game. Kiel are a very physical team and they are able to put a lot of pressure on you. We saw what they did against Montpellier in the quarter-finals. If we can keep up with them in this area, I’m sure we will have our chance.”

On his first EHF FINAL4 as Barça captain:

“It’s not different to me. I have been there many years and the armband does not change much. I’m leading the team as I’ve always tried to do. This is more of a symbol than anything else.”

On his chances to become the top scorer of the competition:

“If it means helping my team win the trophy, then perfect, but I don’t focus on that. If I only score two and we win the trophy, then I’ll gladly take it. This team is not about individuals, it’s about the collective strength and how we are able to win as a team, not about who will score 10 and who will score two.”

Emil Nielsen (DEN) — goalkeeper 

On how he improved since he played his first EHF FINAL4 in 2021 with Nantes:

“I improved a lot. I made a lot of steps up. You have no right to fail when you are in Barça, and it’s important to deliver, especially in big games. The Nantes one was a little bit like a fairytale. Now is a little bit different. But my hunger is exactly the same as it was in 2021. I still want to win the trophy.”

On how Barça vs THW has become a classic:

“These are the two biggest teams in the world. I grew up watching these classics in the Champions League. It’s fun to be a part of it now and hopefully I can be as successful as the former Barça players.”

On the current mood in Barça’s camp:

“It’s great! We have been training hard, we have played good, we have won the Spanish Cup last weekend, so it’s good. We have high expectations. We have set the bar very high for ourselves and hopefully we can deliver. It will not be easy, but we will try our best.”

Aalborg Håndbold (DEN)

Stefan Madsen (DEN) — head coach

On how Aalborg have improved compared to 2021: 

“The conditions are completely different. There will be fans with us this time. We have tried it once, the [EHF] FINAL4. It was a great experience, but tomorrow will be completely different. We have a lot more experience within the team and also as a team, and we know what we have to do to win: Bring an amazing performance.”

On Aalborg’s opponent in the semi-final, Magdeburg:

“They are a fantastic team which played an amazing season, with very good players. We played against them in the preparation last summer, but this will be completely different. We will have to reach our highest level to beat them, especially as we will have to make them change the way they play a little bit. Maybe bother them on the quick plays they like. Maybe force them to defend a little bit differently. It’s all going to be in the details.”

Niklas Landin (DEN) — goalkeeper

On the semi-final against Magdeburg:

“Magdeburg are playing very good at the moment — perhaps one of the best teams in the world. We have chances. Everybody here has one. We see every year that it’s not the favourites who win here. I don’t exactly know what is our status but I’m sure we will have a chance.”

On how to stop Magdeburg’s fast plays:

“It’s a problem everyone has had this season. They have a lot of energy, they have a lot of quality rotations, so it’s hard to keep up with their rhythm. But in the meantime, they play in a very Danish way, so we know how to approach it. We know we can play as fast as they do.”

On playing the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 with his brother, who plays for THW Kiel, as a rival:

“I didn’t say anything to him. We spoke together during the week, like we always do, but we didn’t speak about the games. Our parents are coming to see the games. I know some other members of the family are coming too, but the focus is really on the semi-final at the moment.”

Henrik Møllgaard (DEN) — left back

On the differences Aalborg have between 2021 and 2024:

“We have our fans, we have more experience, we have an amazing team and maybe we are more confident this season. In 2021, Aalborg being at the EHF FINAL4 was a little bit of a surprise. It’s always less a surprise when it’s the second time around. We are not just happy to be here, but maybe a little more confident this time.”

On this EHF FINAL4 being the last chance for Mikkel Hansen to win the trophy:

“Honestly, we do not care. I don’t think anyone will go to sleep tonight with Mikkel in mind, but with the motivation to win it for the club, as a team. He is an amazing player. We will celebrate next week, but that’s it.”

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