Elverum with the drive to break top-six barrier
A much-changed Elverum side return to the top table after another promising, yet ultimately disappointing season in 2020/21.
Despite a large turnover in players, a number of key figures remain at the Norwegian champions, who remain as keen as ever to make a splash in Europe.
- Elverum enter their eighth season in Europe’s top flight, their seventh in a row
- while star wings Alexander Blonz and Luc Abalo have departed, a raft of new signings join the club
- Tokyo 2020 Olympian Simen Holand Pettersen and goalkeeper Thorsten Fries had a short loan spell at the end of last season at French club US Ivry as the Norwegian season was at a standstill
- despite winning the Norwegian league and cup last season, Elverum have yet to play a domestic league match in 2021
Most important question: Can Elverum make the breakthrough?
Elverum have been a source of intrigue for many in the handball world over the last few seasons. Whether it is the record crowds they set for matches against PSG and Flensburg two seasons ago, or the signing of Luc Abalo last year, the Norwegian champions have been making statements to suggest they want to become a Scandinavian heavyweight.
The results, however, have yet to materialise on a regular basis. Last season featured some flashes of what they are capable of with wins over Porto and Brest, results they will need to emulate if they are to emerge on top of what appears to be a three-way battle for sixth place in group A against Vardar and Zagreb and prove they are capable of making progress at this level.
Under the spotlight: Dominik Mathe
Last summer, Dominik Mathe made a brave decision to take the road less travelled and join Elverum from Hungarian side Balatonfüredi. His gutsy move paid off immediately as the right back became their top scorer, drawing plaudits from around Europe, starring in thrilling group phase matches and earning himself a contract with Paris Saint-Germain from next summer.
With all of that, comes the expectation that he must deliver again this season. With more normal circumstances and a settled team to play with, we can expect even more than the 59 goals he delivered last season and there is little doubt that the ball will often end up in the hands of the big 22-year-old when Elverum need an important goal.
How they rate themselves
Qualifying by right to the play-off round in Europe’s top-flight is what the Norwegian champions have on their radar and assistant coach Raymond Hamar is not shy about stating it.
“These are very ambitious goals, but it is important that we dare to say that we express our goals, then there is a greater chance of success.
“We want to fight for - and hopefully succeed, in winning three Norwegian titles. We are very aware of how difficult it is and how long it has been since a team has managed it.
“In the Champions League, we have long had a dream of moving on from the group, and even though we did it last season - it was on different terms. The dream is, therefore, to be among the top six in the group and qualify for the play-offs after the group phase.”
Did you know?
Elverum coach Børge Lund is one of the most-heralded Norwegian male players of all time. An impressive club career saw him play with the likes of Aalborg, THW Kiel, Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Füchse Berlin and with over 200 appearances in 15 years, the former playmaker helped lay the foundation for Norway's men’s national team success, where he is currently the assistant coach.
What the numbers say
Since entering the uppermost echelons of European club handball, Elverum have found it difficult to make much of a splash in the group phase. Over the past two seasons, the Norwegian champions have scored just three victories and two draws in 28 matches – a record they would need to match in just 14 matches this season to stand a chance of progressing in the top six.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Thorsten Fries (back from loan at Istres Provence Handball), Sindre Heldal (Nærbø Idrettslag), Orri Freyr Thorkelsson (Haukar Handball), Simen Holand Pettersen (back from loan at US Ivry Handball), Josip Vidovic (ØIF Arendal), Stig-Tore Moen Nilsen (GOG Håndbold), Kasper Lien (Halden Topphåndball), Eric Johansson (Eskilstuna Guif)
Departures: Alexander Blonz (MOL-Pick Szeged), William Nilsen-Nygaard (retired), Josef Pujol (Dunkerque Handball Grand Littoral), Simen Schønningsen (Bergischer HC), Edwin Aspenbäck (on loan to Hammarby IF), Luc Abalo (retires), Søren Tau Sørensen (Skive fH), Oscar Kvernes (Falk Horten), Jesper Johan Gulliksen (retires)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2021/22 season): 8
Play-offs (1): 2020/21
Group Phase (5): 2015/16, 2016/2017, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20
Qualification (1): 2013/14
Cup Winners’ Cup: Quarter-final 2010/11
EHF Cup: Group Phase 2012/13
Norwegian play-off: 11 titles (1995, 2008, 2012-20)
Norwegian league: 5 titles (2013, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021)
Norwegian cup: 3 titles