Can Ystad also surprise in the European League?
Ystads IF are new to the EHF European League Men, after finishing fourth in the regular season of the Swedish league last season but delivering a masterclass in the play-offs.
It helped them secure their first title in 30 years and, consequently, earn a place in the group phase of the EHF European League Men – a year after they made it all the way to the final of the EHF European Cup.
The Swedish side can be a dark horse against teams that might look stronger on paper.
- Ystad are in the group phase of a European competition for the second time, after the EHF Cup 2015/16
- the Swedish side sealed their place in the group phase by winning their first domestic title in 30 years; however, they have started the domestic 2022/23 season with three wins from three matches
- Ystads IF have an interesting mix of youth and experience – from Kasper Palmar, who starred for Sweden at the M20 EHF EURO, to Kim Andersson, who won the EHF Champions League Men with THW Kiel in 2007
- Ystads IF’s best European performance was reaching the EHF European Cup 2020/21 final, which they lost 54:46 on aggregate against AEK Athens
Most important question: Can they make the cut in the EHF European League?
Sure, it is a question everybody asks, but can a side with little to no European experience at this level perform against more seasoned opponents? Ystads IF truly surprised everybody in Sweden when they took the title last season, with a strong performance in the play-offs.
Beating both IK Sävehof and IFK Skövde 3-1, including a 47:46 win after a shoot-out in the last match of the final was a huge achievement for Ystad, who have not made serious changes to the squad.
But adding at least 10 more European games to the load will surely be difficult to cope during the season, especially as the reigning champions have started the Swedish league with three consecutive losses.
The team is already stretched thin and they will surely face difficult opponents, but if there is one thing Ystads IF have plenty of is motivation. Back Jonathan Svensson has started the season with a bang, scoring 21 goals and dishing 13 assists in the Swedish league, as the 24-year-old will be crucial for his team in the next matches.
Under the spotlight: Kim Andersson
Named Swedish player of the year three times – in 2007, 2008 and 2012 – Kim Andersson is one of the best players of his generation. The 40-year-old right back started to play handball at Ystads IF, where he played between 1998 and 2001 before moving to IK Sävehof.
Spending seven years at THW Kiel, Andersson secured the EHF Champions League Men once, in 2007, and he also was a member of the Sweden squad that clinched the silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
He came back to Ystad in 2015 to finish his career, but he actually extended it until now, entering his ninth consecutive year with the Swedish side. Sure, Andersson is not the force he used to be, but he still scored 59 goals in the past season in the domestic league, helping his side secure the title for the first time in 30 years.
How they rate themselves
As an ambitious side, Ystads IF made the final of the EHF European Cup Men two seasons ago, therefore progressing to the group phase of the EHF European League Men was just the next step in cementing their status in European handball.
“The biggest motivation this season will be to defend the league title and to play in the EHF Europa League and measure ourselves against bigger clubs and better opponents,” said the team’s captain, Jakob Nygren.
Did you know
“Many say that in Ystad, handball is not just a sport, it is a religion,” writes the official website of the Swedish champions. Judging by the fact that they are the oldest team in the competition, with their handball section being founded in 1929, the point is surely taken.
What the numbers say
56% – the percentage of wins secured by Ystads IF in European competitions – 28 wins, four draws and 18 losses in 50 matches played in the EHF Cup, Challenge Cup, and European Cup.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Ebbe Stankiewicz (FyllingenBergen/NOR), Mikael Helmersson (SG Flensburg-Handewitt/GER), Linus Fernebrand (IFK Ystad/SWE)
Departures: Dalibor Doder (IFK Ystad/SWE), Filip Pettersson (IFK Ystad/SWE), Pontus Encrantz (IFK Ystad/SWE), Hampus Andersson (unknown), Jim Andersson (retired)
Group phase (1): 2015/16
EHF European Cup
Final (1): 2020/21
EHF Challenge Cup
Last 16 (1): 2003/04
Swedish league: 3 titles (1976, 1992, 2022)
Swedish cup: 4 titles (1978, 1981, 1984, 1992)