When the men’s 2019 World Handball Championships commences in Denmark and Germany next week, the Danes will be tentatively confident they can compete for the title.
Despite missing superstar talisman Mikkel Hansen, Denmark crushed Hungary 33-19 in a pre-tournament friendly in Aarhus on Thursday night – the Hungarians knocked the Danes out of the quarters two years ago. However, the Hungarians bounced back to win 28-25 on Sunday night.
Following the birth of his first child on Sunday, Hansen is expected to return shortly, and he contends that only a lot of hard work will get Denmark far in the tournament.
“There are a lot of strong teams at the world championships, and if we make it through the group stage, we can face Sweden and Hungary in the middle round. And they are of a high quality,” he told BT tabloid.
The Danish co-hosts, who face Norway, Austria, Chile, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in Group C, do indeed have their own challenges – namely injuries.
Having already lost starting right back Niclas Kirkeløkke to a recent knee injury, veteran winger Hans Lindberg is nursing a calf injury and inspirational frontman René Toft Hansen could miss the first week of the tournament after picking up an injury last night.
“We have some injuries to some key people and a birth that complicates matter. Naturally, it leads to some unrest and we need to get a handle on that in order to get the squad sorted out,” Denmark’s coach Nikolaj Jacobsen told DR Nyheder.
Denmark opens the tournament against Chile on January 10 and will be favoured along with Norway to win Group C.
Hattrick of transfers
Danish striker Nadia Nadim has secured a move to French side Paris Saint-Germain. The Dane, who had her contract prematurely terminated at Manchester City at the end of 2018, managed eight goals in 28 games for the English side. Moving in the opposite direction is Katrine Veje, who has joined Arsenal after seeing out her contract at French side Montpellier. In related news, Danish international forward Martin Braithwaite, who was reported to be unhappy at English Championship side Middlesbrough, has been loaned to La Liga side Leganes.
Wozzie wins, then loses, then wins
Caroline Wozniacki capped an up-and-down week by being named Årets Sportsnavn, the Danish sports person of the year on Saturday in recognition of her winning her first grand slam tournament, the 2018 Australian Open. Wozniacki previously won the award in 2010. The week also began well when she was named Tennis Player of the Year in Denmark for the eleventh time. In fact, she has won the prize every year since 2007, aside from in 2012 when Frederik Løchte Nielsen won it thanks to his doubles triumph at Wimbledon. Meanwhile, 16-year-old starlet Clara Touson was awarded the junior player of the year for the third year in a row. But not all went well for Wozniacki, who endured a torrid start to 2019 following a 4-6, 4-6 loss to Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu in the last 16 at the ASB Classic in Auckland. Andreescu is ranked 152 in the world, but can look forward to a big jump in the rankings after going on to defeat Venus Williams in the quarters and eventually losing in the final.
Danish golfers get US Masters invite
Two Danish golfers, Thorbjørn Olsesen and Lucas Bjerregaard, got a late Christmas present after being invited to take part in the 2019 US Masters. The two Danes were extended an invitation to the major at Augusta National Golf Club because they both finished 2018 in the top 50 in the world rankings (Olsesen 43 and Bjerregaard 45). The last time a Dane played in the US Masters was in 2017, when Søren Kjeldsen finished 37th. Olesen took part in the tournament in 2013 and 2014, finishing sixth on his first attempt, while Bjerregaard will be making his debut in this year’s edition in mid-April.
Danish cycling in doping shock
An unnamed Danish junior national team cyclist tested positive for a banned substance in 2018 in connection with a race abroad. According to the Danish cycling federation, the young rider has been suspended pending an investigation, but it would not name the rider because of the ongoing case. According to Jyllands-Posten newspaper, the rider is considered to be a big talent. The newspaper also revealed that the rider has asked for his suspension to be initiated, despite not admitting to the doping, in order to have time served on a prospective future suspension.