A big crowd of supporters will cheer for the Danish team at the Men’s World Championship in Sweden 2011, as the 2009 WCH semi finalist will play their matches only 20 kilometers away from the Danish border, in Malmö. This support makes Ulrik Wilbek feel great. The coach (52 years old) is one of the most important figures in international handball.
He is the father of the Danish success in women’s handball, as he led the “Dynamite Girls” to Gold medals at Olympics (1996), World Championships (1997) and European Championships (1994, 1996). In 2005 he was appointed as coach of the Danish men – and continued those successes. At first his team won Bronze at the EURO 2006, then at the World Championship 2007 before the Danish men won their first ever title in the last decades by beating Croatia in the EURO final 2008 in Norway.
Before the WCH in Sweden, Wilbek talks about the objectives the support and his personal Gold favourites in this interview with www.ihf.info.
How glad have you been that the Swedish organizers had chosen Malmö as “the Danish venue”?
Ulrik Wilbek: This is essential for us. This means that we can play 20 minutes from Copenhagen with a big home crowd in every game.
How important is the support of thousands of spectators?
Ulrik Wilbek: It gives extra motivation and security – especially when you seem to be defeated.
Your team finished fourth at the WCH in Croatia and fifth at the EURO in Austria – what are your expectations for Sweden?
Ulrik Wilbek: Our goal is to finish among the top seven, which leads to the Olympic Qualification Tournament.
Is Denmark dreaming of a medal again?
Ulrik Wilbek: Of course we are dreaming, but right now we are changing quite a lot of players, so we don`t have that many experienced players.
In the EURO qualification your team won both opening matches clearly – is this a hint for the strength of the team in Sweden?
Ulrik Wilbek: We are playing on a good level. But we haven`t met the Top 4 teams yet.
In the Preliminary Round Denmark will meet Croatia – is this already the “clash of the titans” like in the EURO final 2008 in Lillehammer?
Ulrik Wilbek: I think that our match against Serbia will be a key match for us. Croatia is my favourite for the title.
How’s the personal situation in your team – will some key players have to miss the WCH in Sweden?
Ulrik Wilbek: As it seems right in this moment all our players are ready. But unfortunately that can change very quickly
France has won the last three major tournaments – is this team your Gold favourite, too? What other teams do you expect for the medal’s race?
Ulrik Wilbek: I think it will be tough for France as they miss Narcisse. Croatia is my favourite, and then France, Spain and Poland. Those teams are my bid for the semi finals.
What chances will organizer Sweden have thanks to the home advantage? And what do you expect from Sweden as the WCH host from the organisational point of view?
Ulrik Wilbek: Of course Sweden will benefit of the home advantage. I think they are in the row just after the favourites – like Denmark.
An important point of winning Gold in Malmö is the fact that the winner is directly qualified for the Olympic Games 2012. Is this also your key reason to become World Champion?
Ulrik Wilbek: No, this is about winning the World Cup which is just as big as winning the Olympics.
What would be your favourite headline in Danish newspapers for the 31st of January?
Ulrik Wilbek: “The best final ever”