Hallgrímsson hopeful GOG grabs last chance
Until a week ago, GOG’s season in the EHF European League Men 2021/22 could hardly have gone any better. The Danish side racked up seven victories and finished No. 1 in arguably the toughest group, ahead of the likes of SL Benfica, HBC Nantes, and TBV Lemgo Lippe. They went on with two clear wins in the Last 16 against Bidasoa Irun.
But then came the first leg of the quarter-finals, at RK Nexe last Tuesday.
GOG led by two goals in the early stages but ultimately went down 32:27 in Croatia, leaving them with a mountain to climb when Nexe come to Gudme for the decisive leg on Tuesday (live on EHFTV at 18:15 CEST).
Making up the five-goal deficit is doable, according to GOG goalkeeper Viktor Hallgrímsson.
“We expected a physical tough match at Nexe and we missed some key players, but we had not thought about such a result,” the 21-year-old Icelander said.
“We do not know at the moment if some of our missing stars might return for the second match, but what we know is that we will try everything to make it to the EHF Finals.”
GOG are in a special situation: many players will leave the club after this season, and they want to do so after making it to the final tournament of the EHF European League.
“We know this is the last chance in this constellation of the squad to do something big. This is why our motivation is so huge and this situation definitely increases our team spirit,” said Hallgrímsson, who will next season join fellow EHF European League contenders HBC Nantes to replace Emil Nielsen. The Danish goalkeeper is moving to Barça.
Another key factor for GOG in their quest for a magical night in Gudme will be the crowd.
“We have seen in Nasice how important fans are. Now we will see what Nexe can achieve without this support. Our fans are great and will push us to the limit. We still have a chance to proceed,” Hallgrímsson said.
Hallgrímsson arrived as an 18-year-old at GOG in 2019. The club just missed out on the inaugural EHF Finals last season: a 30:27 home win over Orlen Wisla Plock was followed by a 31:26 defeat in the away leg, sending the Polish side to the final tournament in Mannheim end ending GOG’s campaign in disappointment.
We know this is the last chance in this constellation of the squad to do something big. This is why our motivation is so huge and this situation definitely increases our team spirit.
A year on and GOG are in a different situation: this time they need to come from behind in the second leg of the quarter-finals in order to proceed.
For Hallgrímsson, the tactics are clear.
“We have to put the pedal to the metal right from the start, we need an early advantage,” the EHF EURO 2022 All-star goalkeeper said.
“We usually score many goals. We will run and run and run; this is our way, to score by fast breaks.”
Not just in the EHF European League, but also in their domestic Danish league the season has reached its business end for GOG, who lead group 1 of the winners' stage ahead of Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, with Skjern and Aalborg the leading teams in group 2.
The busy schedule, however, should be not a problem.
“We are used to it, to play many top matches,” Hallgrímsson said. “No matter what: we are playing to beat Nexe and we are hoping to make it to the semi-finals.”