Flash Quotes: TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 2024 semi-finals

Flash Quotes: TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 2024 semi-finals

COLOGNE — Comments from the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4 semi-finals day from Barça head coach Carlos Ortega (ESP), goalkeeper Emil Nielsen (DEN), right wing Blaz Janc (SLO), backs Melvyn Richardson (FRA) and Timothey N'guessan (FRA), and THW Kiel head coach Filip Jicha (CZE), backs Nikola Bylik (AUT) and Elias Ellefsen á Skipagøtu (FAR), and Aalborg Håndbold head coach Stefan Madsen (DEN), wing Sebastian Barthold (NOR) and Kristian Bjørnsen (NOR), back Mads Hoxer (DEN), back Lukas Nilsson (SWE), goalkeeper Niklas Landin (DEN), back Mikkel Hansen (DEN) and back Henrik Møllgaard, and Magdeburg back Felix Claar (SWE), goalkeeper Sergey Hernandez (ESP), head coach Bennet Wiegert (GER) and back Omar Ingi Magnusson (ISL) after Aalborg beat Magdeburg 28:26 in the first semi-final. 

Barça (ESP)

Carlos Ortega (ESP) - head coach

On the performance of his team:

“I am happy with the result, you have to be when you win the semi-final by 12. Our defence and goalkeepers were unbelievable. However, I am not 100% satisfied with our attack. Sometimes we made the same mistakes three times in a row. But you have to be happy, of course. Tomorrow will be another match, and we have not done anything yet. We have taken one more step towards the title, now we are so close and so far at the same time.”

On his opinion about Aalborg:

“I saw the first half of the first semi-final and part of the second. They showed a really good 6-0 defence, really strong. We played against Magdeburg, we know how difficult it is to beat them. Aalborg have players who are able to shoot from the outside, to play one-against-one, Hoxer is really good at the moment. We did not play this season against Aalborg. They are having a much better season than in 2021, I think it’s going to be a big battle tomorrow.”

Emil Nielsen (DEN) - goalkeeper

On winning the semi-final against Kiel:

“We’re happy for now and it was great to celebrate a bit after the game, but once we leave the locker room, we have to move on and focus our attention on tomorrow’s game. We’re good, we have a great team, but we have to move on, otherwise, we’ll lose the final tomorrow. This game was just the first step leading towards our goal.”

On his amazing save percentage today:

“It was a team effort for sure. The defence was great today, we did a great job all around, everyone got to play a part. No one else could have done this, it’s all about teamwork. Now we must focus on tomorrow and make sure we keep up the same intensity.”

Blaz Janc (SLO) - right wing

On Barça’s goalkeepers' performance:

“Emil was amazing today but our defence helped him a lot so he can be that good. Both things were important. Gonzalo Perez de Vargas also saved everything in the last ten minutes. Today the goalkeepers were amazing, but tomorrow is a new game, a new final. Tomorrow will be more difficult, against one of the best teams in Europe. Aalborg deserve to be in the final, so now we have to rest so we can be ready.”

Melvyn Richardson (FRA) - right back

On winning the semi-final:

“We had prepared it very well, THW Kiel are a very talented team that can cause a lot of problems. We had time to prepare it and we did a lot of things that we had planned to do. Defensively, we were able to stop them playing on their strong points and our goalkeepers were phenomenal. They managed to come back in the second half, but we remained clever and cold-headed, we did not panic and managed to win by a lot in the end.”

On Emil Nielsen’s performance:

“Honestly, I’m not surprised. He kills us every day at training. It forces us to be even better but I can imagine that the opponents can struggle against him. To have such a goalkeeper behind you is a huge help, of course. And let’s not forget Gonzalo, who also did a great job when he entered the court.”

On Barça's chemistry on the court:

“It’s part of the plan, the team did not change much last summer so that makes it easy for us. We get along very well, we play very well together and in crush moments like those, of course, the collective experience is one of the details that is on our side.”

Timothey N’Guessan (FRA) - left back

On qualifying for the final:

“It’s great, but the road is not over yet. We did not come here to qualify for the final, we came here to win the title. Today we had a great game, we were able to knock it on the head pretty early and not give them any hope to come back. Our defence was impressive, so were our goalkeepers. I mean, conceding 18 goals at this level is something that you don’t achieve every day. But, as I said, the focus is now on the final.”

On Barça keeping their focus despite their big advantage:

“We lost it for five minutes and Kiel came back, so the timeout helped us focus again. I mean, it’s important to play well until the end as I’m convinced we prepared the final in the last minutes of tonight’s game. It’s great everyone got to play, that might have an impact on how fresh we are tomorrow.”

THW Kiel (GER)

Filip Jicha (CZE) - head coach

On what made it difficult for THW tonight:

“If you look at the numbers, they speak for themselves. It was a very disappointing evening for us, we were not able to put the energy and the quality that is needed in this type of occasion. We couldn’t score a goal in the last minutes of the game. From this point on, the way we started the game, we needed to work on our mindset. You have to be brave and show courage in these games, and I was very surprised we showed some fear. Barça overruled us in every aspect. Defeats like this are very hard to talk about.”

Nikola Bylik (AUT) - right back

On 3/4 placement match:

“Those Sunday games are always really tough, especially after such a huge loss. I think that we just owe to the fans and to the club to show something else tomorrow. No matter how hard it is to find the motivation, we have to play 100% against Magdeburg. We have to find motivation, to try to do everything to win this game and end the weekend on a better note.”

Elias Ellefsen á Skipagøtu (FAR) - centre back 

On losing the semi-final:

“It hurts but really, we did not deserve to win. We missed too many open shots right from the start, Emil Nielsen was fantastic and we had such a tough time against him. It’s a very bad moment for us right now, definitely not what we expected. But Barça has the right attitude, the best goalkeeper, the best defence. And while we might have pretended at some point that we had the chance, they really got the upper hand early and we were not able to turn things over.”

Aalborg Håndbold (DEN)

Stefan Madsen (DEN) — head coach

On his emotions after winning the semi-final:

“I am extremely proud to, once again, reach the final. We are proud of the way we managed to play this game. We knew before that we had to find something extraordinary to beat them. Everybody agrees that SCM are maybe the best team in Europe at the moment, especially when they’ve got the space to play one-against-one. We tried to do something totally different and it worked.”

Sebastian Barthold (NOR) — left wing

On qualifying for the final:

“It was an amazing match, between two tough teams that played good handball. Maybe it was not the prettiest game ever, but one of the most intense. It was an amazing game to play, especially in such an atmosphere. It’s a dream come true to play the final here. Tonight, we tried something we usually don’t do, a five-one defence, a bit more aggressive, to kill their rhythm and how they approach their attack. I am really satisfied. We also got a lot of good situations, we managed to put the right players in the right situations, and we fought for everything, every fumble, every contact. It’s an amazing feeling to be here with the final ticket. It could have gone both ways, but I feel like we deserved it more tonight.”

On preparation for the final:

“I don’t know if we were so good at preparing the final three years ago, we’ll learn from that experience. Maybe this time around, the team is a bit different. In 2021, we were super underdogs, and maybe to some still, we are the fourth team at the EHF FINAL4. But we can beat every team, tonight we beat the reigning champions, the best team in Germany. And if we can beat them, we can beat everyone.”

Mads Hoxer (DEN) — right back

On winning the semi-final:

“We are very happy and very proud, of course. Now you can really say that details made the difference tonight, when you win by two goals after being so tight for the whole game. I think our defence was key, as we were able to stop them a lot of times and to make them attack a lot longer than they like.”

On the aggressive defence Aalborg used in the second half:

“We decided to go more aggressive, more one-on-one defence, in order to stop their back-court players, and it kind of worked. We slowed them down and they struggled to find good solutions in the end. This is not something that we are used to, but this is something that the coach had in mind before the game. For sure, we might not have been able to hold for 10 minutes, but we held it enough to make the difference.”

On his first EHF FINAL4 experience:

“It’s amazing, it’s my first time and it’s crazy. There is a lot of tension. You can feel that every action is really important, but I really like it. It’s really fun to play and we are really looking forward to tomorrow’s final.”

Kristian Bjørnsen (NOR) — right wing

On qualifying for the final:

“It’s crazy. It was a very tight game, very tense, where every ball counted twice. But in the end, I don’t even know what made the difference. Niklas [Landin] came back on and made some key saves. We also were able to pull out a different defence to disturb them. If you add all of this, I guess that we made the details fall on our side.”

On the importance of experience in these games:

“Of course it is important, but let’s be honest, Magdeburg’s players are not exactly new to this game either. Of course, having Niklas [Landin] behind us, you know he can make some important saves, for example. But it was really a team victory more than anything else, I think.”

On the opponent he would rather play against in the final:

“I don’t mind, to be honest. Both are amazing teams with a lot of great players. That will not make a difference. We are 60 minutes away from the title now, and no matter if we are playing against Kiel or Barcelona, we want to win the final.”

Niklas Landin (DEN) — goalkeeper

On returning to Cologne:

"This is one of the most amazing halls for handball and it's inspiring to play here. I have experienced so many great moments here."

On preparing for the final game tomorrow:

"We have to find something extraordinary for tomorrow and believe in ourselves and our abilities to win."

Mikkel Hansen (DEN) — left back

On defence being the key element of their strategy for the TruckScout24 EHF FINAL4: 

"We had to focus on doing a steady job today and we have to continue that tomorrow. We have to play again as a team and focus on our defence. Our defence helped us a lot and it was the defence that we focused on during the last few training sessions."

Henrik Møllgaard (DEN) — left back 

On his experience in the semi-final at LANXESS arena: 

"This is different from the last time here. It feels more special to me and to the entire team."

On the team's preparation for tomorrow's final: 

"You have to control these guys and you just have to figure it out. I'm 39 years old, but we all have to run against each other and play the best game we possibly can, no matter what."

Lukas Nilsson (SWE) — left back

On his experience at today's semi-final:

"It means so much for the whole team to come here and to win today was amazing." 

SC Magdeburg (GER)

Felix Claar (SWE) — centre back

On losing the semi-final:

“It’s really tough, especially since we were that close. We put everything we had in the game, but it was not enough. We are really disappointed. It’s really bitter to lose that way.”

On the problems the Magdeburg defence experienced:

“They defended really aggressively in the second half — really high defence — and we couldn’t find the solutions against that. And when we did, in the last minutes, then Niklas Landin was there. This tough defence from them was a little bit of a surprise. That gave us a lot of problems. I think our offence has not been running smoothly enough to win.”

Sergey Hernandez Ferrer (ESP) — goalkeeper

On losing the semi-final:

“It’s hard to lose like that, when you have the impression that things could have also gone your way. It hurts, but I feel like we missed a little bit of everything in every area of the game. But at this level, a little bit is actually a huge bit and that makes the difference in the end.”

On what Magdeburg missed exactly to qualify:

“A lot of things, really: Saves, defences, offences…A lot of things. We can be proud of what we showed, but we missed a lot of things. This is far from the best performance we could have played today.”

Bennet Wiegert (GER) — head coach

On what made the difference in the outcome:

“It was a tough fight. A really close game for 60 minutes. Small things made the difference. Maybe we have had too many problems to find good solutions in offence, against the offensive part of Aalborg’s defence. Saves were the biggest difference, I think. We had not so much saves, unlike Aalborg.”

Omar Ingi Magnusson (ISL) — right back

On the semi-final:

“Aalborg played a really good game. They had a good game plan against us. We had problems with their defence. It was hard for us to score. We did not get our rhythm going. It was a tough fight and in the end they scored more.”

On his personal performance:

“Five missed shots is not good enough. It’s not about me. We need to win as a team. We did not play good enough and there is nothing else to say, really.”

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