Sanna Solberg: We are a more than good enough team to win

EHF / Ida Hummeluhr

If we rewind time by a year, Team Esbjerg from Denmark is in their first ever EHF Champions League FINAL4. First, in the semi-final against Györi Audi ETO KC,  the Danes lose 27:32 and then a bronze match, which ends in a defeat to Metz Handball, 26:32.

Team Esbjerg can now turn that experience into something quite positive, if you ask the winger Sanna Solberg, a new mother who wants fourth place last year to be exchanged for the coveted trophy and the gold medals on this occasion

"We are really looking forward. Now, we were there last year as a team, and then some players have tried it a lot of times, while some have never tried it before, but as a team we were there last year, and we know more about what it is. So, it is certainly also an advantage for us that we know what it is about. This year we enter with expectations and hope to do better than last year".

And it is also a confident Norwegian who puts into words the form and upward trajectory that the team is in at the moment.

"I think we are doing really well. We have different types of players that can contribute in a lot of different ways. We have good defence and good goalkeepers who work well together. We have self-confidence and faith in our own abilities. We have probably never been as well-driven as we are right now. So, it hopefully bodes well for the important matches as well," Solberg makes clear.

Crunch time

It has undeniably become crunch time for Team Esbjerg, who right now stand with their own destiny in their hands in both the EHF Champions League women, and also in the Danish league. On Tuesday, the first final match in Danish handball awaits, where Team Esbjerg has secured a place. And a few days after that, it is FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria that awaits in one of Europe's biggest semi-finals.

"We are very satisfied with that. We have of course had that as a goal throughout the season. But we should also be proud that we actually succeeded in getting here. We are not satisfied with ending with what we have achieved now, we want to go further than last year, so there is a lot of excitement ahead with the final match in the Danish league and the semi-final in the EHF FINAL4 a few days later,” says the Esbjerg wing, who has been at the club since 2017.

Although Solberg and co. dream of more than a semi-final, this is where the focus currently lies.

"Now, of course, we first look at the semi-final against FTC, where we know there will be a lot of pressure. They have many fans in the stands, who will probably give a lot of life, so it will be a great experience. And then we hope that there will be a lot of good handball and that we will be winners in the end. But there is a lot of preparation to be done first and we know that it is a good team that we have to face. But we are a more than good enough team to win," cements Solberg confidently, before she continues:

"We have played against each other in previous years, and we usually play fairly evenly. They have made it to the EHF FINAL4 and are a good team. We know we have to be really sharp throughout the game, but I definitely think we have a team that can succeed in beating them. So, we should probably expect an exciting match, but I hope and believe that we have the opportunity to win".

Quick comeback after the birth of daughter Mathea

For Sanna Solberg, the focus has not only been on handball and the big championship matches in recent times. On 23 January 2023 she and her husband could call themselves parents of daughter, Mathea.

In the following weeks and months, hard work was planned on Solberg's part, as she dreamed of getting back on the handball court - and she managed to do so at the beginning of April.

"We enjoyed the time at home quietly, where I gradually started to build up in terms of training, of course only with very little training in the first weeks, when Mathea was the biggest focus. And then I've had a man at home who took maternity leave with me, which has made it easier for me to come back and get the training I needed, and add layers to my pace. So, it has been a good experience".

Although, according to Sanna Solberg, handball was minimal in the first weeks after giving birth, there is now again surplus and space to be able to focus on the sport that she loves.

"A good number of months passed when I didn't play, so it gave me a lot of desire and motivation to come back again - especially when you've seen the team do so well, it was even more tempting to join and contribute. At first, I was on the battens, and later on the court. I love playing handball, and after a day like this with one, two or three hours of handball, you come home to little Mathea and can enjoy the rest of the day with her. It's a nice workplace in a way," says the 32-year-old winger, who, however, lacks confidence in training to be completely back in top shape, she reports.

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