Grøndahl: “I have now cracked the code”
Elverum Handball have been one of the pleasant surprises of the EHF Champions League 2021/22 group phase so far, sharing third place in group A after six rounds.
Next up for the Norwegian side is the Match of the Week in round 7 against against group leaders Montpellier HB on Wednesday (live on EHFTV at 18:45 CET).
One of the main reasons behind Elverum’s strong showing is 20-year-old Tobias Grøndahl. Eurohandball.com caught up with the centre back on the eve of the MOTW against the two-time Champions League winners.
eurohandball.com: Elverum made the headlines with their surprise 34:30 win over Pick Szeged in Hungary last month. How do you look back on that game, in which you scored nine times and were then named best playmaker of the round?
Tobias Grømdahl: The worst thing was that I got injured in the last training before that game so I was not sure that I would be able to play at all. And then the game was the best game I have played so far during my career. Nine goals against a team that are fighting to play in the EHF FINAL4 is something I am very proud of.
eurohandball.com: You are currently sixth on the top scorers list in the EHF Champions League, with 36 goals – already nine more than in the entire previous season.
Tobias Grøndahl: I have always scored a lot of goals, but it has taken a few seasons to learn how to play in the EHF Champions League. It is all about tempo and your physique and now I have cracked the code on how to find my teammates in open spaces whilst still being a threat myself.
We have performed above and beyond all expectations, for sure. Our goal when the season started was to make it past the group phase and right now it is looking really promising.
eurohandball.com: What does it mean to you that you, at age 20, have already become the No. 1 playmaker for Elverum?
Tobias Grøndahl: I am very pleased with that development. I have spent more time on the bench during the past two seasons in the Champions League but always felt that I was ready for a bigger role. Now I feel like I have really taken care of the opportunity that the coaches have given me. I am eager to continue to play as good as I have done so far.
eurohandball.com: Elverum have lost just one of their six matches so far – against 2020 champions THW Kiel. How do you explain the successful start to the 2021/22 season?
Tobias Grøndahl: We have performed above and beyond all expectations, for sure. Our goal when the season started was to make it past the group phase and right now it is looking really promising. We have already earned more points this season than Elverum have ever had before in this competition, so it is a huge accomplishment.
eurohandball.com: What is the difference between playing with Elverum in the EHF Champions League and playing in the Norwegian league?
Tobias Grøndahl: When we play in the domestic league, we are expected to win every game and for every team that plays us, it is their match of the year. When we play in the Champions League, it is the opposite: we are the underdogs in most games.
eurohandball.com: And you probably are underdogs facing two-time champions Montpellier on Wednesday?
Tobias Grøndahl: Montpellier have played really great in the Champions League this season so it will be a very tough game. But we have nothing to lose and will continue to just enjoy the games. We will try to do that we did against Pick Szeged.