A new dawn for Valur

20221106 AH 3577 2 EHF / Adrian Costeiu

Valur have reached the group phase of a European competition for the first time since the 2007/08 season. The Icelandic side consider themselves as the perfect underdogs, who will give all in their games to try and hamper their opponents.

But can a young and inexperienced squad succeed in the second-tier European competition?

Main facts:

  • Valur made it to the group phase of an international competition for the first time since the 2007/08 season, when they qualified for the group phase of the Machineseeker EHF Champions League
  • the Icelandic club has a mixture of experience and youth, with an average age of 25.1 years old in the squad, driven up by players like goalkeeper Björgvin Pall Gustavsson
  • Valur became only the third Icelandic side in history to reach the semi-finals of a European competition, in the 2016/17 season of the Men’s EHF Challenge Cup
  • Valur secured the domestic league last season after finishing level on points with Hakur but with a better head-to-head record of one win; the second game between the two sides ended in a draw
  • the most decorated team in Iceland has produced talents like Ólafur Stefánsson, Dagur Sigurðsson and Ómar Ingi Magnússon

Most important question: Are they ready for such a challenge?

To understand how important this qualification in the group phase of the EHF European League Men for Valur, it is worth mentioning only that the previous Icelandic team to feature at this stage of a European competition was Haukar Hafnarfjördur in the 2008/09 season of the EHF Champions League.

Of course Iceland have been a constant presence at the major international tournaments like the EHF EURO or the IHF Men’s World Championship, but a large number of their players feature in the best leagues in the world, with many talented youngsters leaving Iceland early to fulfil their potential.

From the 20-man squad called up by Guðmundur Guðmundsson for the EHF EURO 2022, only a single player, Björgvin Pall Gustavsson, played in the Icelandic league, coincidentally for Valur. Therefore, the Icelandic champions are more of a team that uncovers gems and feeds European powerhouses.

Last season, Valur failed to make the cut in the qualification rounds of the EHF European League Men. A 44:39 aggregate win against Croatian side RK Porec in the first round was followed by a 47:54 aggregate loss against TBV Lemgo Lippe, which helped Valur gain important experience.

They are still bringing a young team to the fore here and will need plenty of luck at the draw, but with a long trip to Iceland for the visitors, they should, at least, be very competitive and a hard nut to crack on their home court.

Under the spotlight: Björgvin Pall Gustavsson

The 37-year-old goalkeeper has plenty of international experience, having played for Kadetten Schaffhausen, SC Magdeburg and Skjern Håndbold. But the longing for Iceland brought him back home, where he signed for Valur in 2021. It was a conscious decision, as Gustavsson is under contract until 2026, hoping to see off his career on a high from the current Icelandic champions.

He is one of the most experienced goalkeepers in Europe, having featured in six consecutive EHF EURO tournaments and has even scored 14 goals in 242 matches for the Iceland national team.

Gustavsson has been also in superb form in this start of the season, boasting a 43 per cent saving efficiency in the first matches in the domestic league, being the goalkeeper with the largest number of saves, 48, in four matches. His experience will surely add to Valur’s challenge, as the Icelandic side returns to the top of the European handball after nearly 15 years.

How they rate themselves

Understanding their lack of experience, Valur portray themselves as the perfect underdogs, who will give 100 per cent in each match of the group phase.

“For us it is clear that we will be the underdog in almost every game, but we have many good players, so we really want to give every team a good fight. We will run, fight, and play with our hearts, that is for sure. Hopefully this will give us a chance to grow as a team, as a club and give all the young promising players in Iceland a shot to see top players live in Iceland, at our home court,” said Valur’s captain, Alexander Örn Júlíusson.

Did you know?

Ómar Ingi Magnússon, Dagur Sigurðsson and Ólafur Stefánsson, three of the best Icelandic players in history, have featured for Valur, while Patrekur Jóhannesson was the team’s coach in 2013

What the numbers say

1 – the number of semi-finals played by Valur in European competitions in their history, a Men’s EHF Challenge Cup in 2016/17, lost by a single goal on aggregate, 53:54, against AHC Potaissa Turda

Arrivals and departures

Arrivals: Aron Dagur Pálsson (Elverum Handball), Bergur Elí Rúnarsson (FH)

Departures:  Einar Þorsteinn Ólafsson (Fredericia), Þorgeir Bjarki Davíðsson (Grótta)

Past achievements

EHF Champions League
Group phase (1): 2007/08
1/8 finals (2): 1993/94, 1995/96

EHF Challenge Cup
Semi-finals (1): 2016/17


Icelandic league (24): 1940-1942, 1944, 1947-1948, 1951, 1955, 1973, 1977-1979, 1988-1989, 1991, 1993-1996, 1998, 2007, 2017, 2021-2022

Icelandic Cup (12): 1974, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1998, 2008-2009, 2011, 2016-2017, 2021-2022

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