MALMÖ. Jesper Nielsen suddenly appeared in the national handball team again – invited with his elbow.
Now that the 32-year-old has a little hope of joining the European Championships.
– There have been two dropouts in my position. I don’t really feel that close I am, says the previously failed linebacker who tells about the tough years.
The established stars Niclas Ekberg, Lukas Nilsson, Linus Arnesson, Jesper Nielsen and Andreas Nilsson all turned down the World Cup in January for various reasons.
At home from the TV couch, they got to see the national team under the new national team captain Glenn Solberg take a feat-stamped silver in the World Cup.
The only one who has been taken into the national team heat again by the five after that is Niclas Ekberg. The rest has been missed by Solberg.
But then suddenly Jesper Nielsen appeared in the blue and yellow jersey on Thursday in the first of two friendly internationals against Poland this week, which is the only collection the national team has before the squad for the European Championships in January is presented.
He was summoned to the collection one day after two line players (Max Darj and Oscar Bergendahl) resigned. He got to play 15 minutes in the big win against Poland.
Took out in the EC’s all star team
Nielsen has barely given an interview in the Swedish media since he played his last international match, Sweden’s failure loss against Portugal in the home European Championship in January 2020 when he injured his shoulder and had to leave the tournament.
– I declined the World Cup because I had been injured since the European Championships at home, for 11.5 months, and only made sporadic jumps in a couple of matches. I had to make a mature decision there, he says.
After the World Cup, Nielsen had no contact with Solberg, except for a text message in connection with his change of club this summer from German Rhein-Neckar Löwen to Danish Champions League semi-finalist Ålborg, until a month ago when Solberg visited the Swedes in Ålborg.
– Since we had a chat, I understood that it was not completely run for me yet.
Did you think that the national team was a closed chapter?
– Yes a little. I have hoped before each collection that I will be selected. But I have not received a call and I heard that they only call those who are close to join.
Nielsen continued to have minor injuries in the spring after the World Cup.
– If you had been healthy and played well, you would have been really upset about not being selected.
He has played eight championships since his debut in the European Championships in 2014. When Sweden won European Championship silver in 2018, he was named the championship’s best line player.
Now the two-meter-tall man from Norrköping hopes to join the European Championships 2022.
– Now I have two matches and a training week to continue to show, because I think I did it in the Champions League this autumn, that I agree and want to be involved and fight for places. But there have been two defections in my position. I do not feel so close that I am.
Was it a given to go here at such short notice?
– Yes, I wanted that chance.
Played in PSG
After two years in Paris Saint-Germain 2016–18, he left the super club for Rhein-Neckar Löwen, who was then coached by Danish national team captain Nikolaj Jakobsen.
It was a mistake, Nielsen now says.
– I thought I had a dream situation to come to one of Germany’s best clubs and play a lot. But it did not turn out well at all. Without it, it’s the worst decision of my career to move there.
– I was deceived on false premises at first.
How do you mean?
– That I would have a big role in the team and play a lot and take Hendrik Pekelser’s role forward and backward. But already the first training I noticed that this was not the case.
– Then Jannik Kohlbacher came in and did extremely well offensively and we had a lot of defensive players. I ended up in a pinch and then the injuries started with the WC 2019 with the groin. Then I injured my shoulder in the European Championships 2020 and then it has just been shit.
Until this autumn and the move to Ålborg, that is.
– Now it has felt much better.
How is the shape versus when you were at your best?
– I think that defensively it feels like the European Championships 2018. It does. Offensively, I think there is a little more to take off. But it can be due to a new club, a new game system and new teammates. But I’m starting to get closer to the shape, he smiles.
There are many new teammates in the national team as well. Blue-yellow has undergone a generational change since Nielsen last participated.
– There were probably eight new faces at the beginning of the bus that you got to visit. There are many people you miss, many of your friends are no longer here. It was a little special. But there are nice guys here and it does not really feel like you have been away for so long, says Nielsen.
Sweden meets Poland at 4 pm today in Kristianstad.
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Swedish national team star: “I was deceived on false premises”