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Ulrik Wilbek

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‘Just play, wait and see’ 
Interview with Danish coach Ulrik Wilbek before the World Championship in Spain
He is the current IHF Coach of the Year for male teams, and typifies pure success. After having been decorated with triple gold at Olympics, World and European Championships with the Danish women’s team Ulrik Wilbek took over the Danish men’s side in 2005. And success continued. In 2008 and 2012 Denmark led by Wilbek became European champion; in 2011 they reached their first World Championship final since 1967 and finally won silver in Sweden. 
Despite missing the Olympic semi-finals in London, Wilbek’s squad is among the top favourites again for the 2013 World Championship in Spain – and before this prime tournament Wilbek started his additional job within the Danish Federation as the new sports director. 
In this interview the IHF Coach of the Year explains his hopes, wishes and tactics for Spain and talks about unlucky moments in London.
What are the objectives the sports director Ulrik Wilbek told to the coach Ulrik Wilbek?
Ulrik Wilbek: The objective is always to win as many matches as possible. If we do so, we will be World champion. However, many other strong teams have the same aim. So let’s play and see.
What lesson did you personally learn from the Olympic Games?
Ulrik Wilbek: I had a hard time afterwards – it was probably the biggest disappointment in my life so far. I think I learned a lot concerning our possibilities to play but also about that it’s indispensable to not underestimate the opponent and to not get carried away by positive prospects. We already saw ourselves in the final, but how wrong can you be if you don’t keep fully concentrated every single minute of the match. 
Two experienced players – Thomas Mogensen and Michael V. Knudsen – will not play in Spain. What will change for your team?
Ulrik Wilbek: Nothing as far as tactics and play are concerned. But those are two skilful players, and it is for sure that we will miss them.
Do you agree that Denmark is among the top favourites?
Ulrik Wilbek: I will tell you on 27 January. But as I said, we will go for victory in each and every match. 
How important is that World Championship on your journey to the EHF EURO 2014 on home soil, or don’t you have this tournament in mind?
Ulrik Wilbek: When we are in Spain we will play in order to obtain the best possible World Championship result. After that we will focus on the big tournament in Denmark. And my philosophy of continuous development of play while getting involved new talents has not changed at all.
You could be the first ever coach in handball history to become World champion with both a men’s and a women’s team – does that reflection give fresh impetus to you?
Ulrik Wilbek: I don’t think about it but of course it’s a nice thought.

How has AG Kobenhavn’s bankruptcy changed handball in Denmark – and your work as the national coach?
Ulrik Wilbek: First and foremost the Danish league is affected. Three to four of those clubs have a realistic chance of winning the Danish championship. My work hasn’t changed but it is still the same. 

Which team from group A would you like to meet at the eighth-finals?
Ulrik Wilbek: I want to obtain the best possible result in our group so that the opponent might be less strong. But let’s wait and see. Right now I concentrate on the teams we will meet in the preliminaries. 
The host was always among the semi-finalists at previous WCh tournaments. Do you expect the same from Spain?
Ulrik Wilbek: Yes – but I would expect Spain in the semi-finals even if the World Championship was played in another country.