Dreaming in Denmark: Nycke Groot chases big goals with Odense
Nycke Groot feels like turning back times these days.
The Dutch centre back has returned to Denmark after four years. She played for seven seasons in total at TTH Holstebro and FC Midtjylland before moving to Hungary in 2015 for her highly successful stint with Györi Audi ETO KC.
And with her new club, Odense Håndbold, Groot is returning to the Women’s EHF Cup, where she hasn’t played since reaching the semi-finals with Midtjylland in 2012/13.
“I love to be back here, it just feels very familiar,” Groot tells europeancup.eurohandball.com. “I really enjoyed my time in Hungary a lot, despite the fact it was also a tough time. But I am happy to feel comfortable again in Denmark.”
Groot will be in the limelight
As a Györ player, Groot was one of the outstanding performers in the EHF Champions League. She reached the final of Europe’s top flight in each of her four seasons with the Hungarian side, winning the title on the last three occasions.
Each season Groot contributed more than 50 goals to that success, peaking at a personal best 73 in 2018/19.
And last May she became the all-time top scorer at EHF FINAL4 events, after scoring in the final against Rostov-Don for her 57th goal in total at the Budapest-based finals tournament.
No wonder Groot will be in the limelight when Odense throw off their EHF Cup campaign with a double-header against DHC Slavia Praha this weekend.
While both matches will be played in their own Otterup Idraetscenter, the ‘away’ match against Slavia Praha is set for Friday at 18:30 CET, followed by the return leg on Saturday at 17:00 CET.
“We play both matches in Odense so it will be challenging to have two matches back-to-back,” Groot says. “But I expect that we are better and that we advance to the next round.”
In round 1 in September, Slavia also played a double-header in the arena of their opponents, ZRK Kumanovo. While they lost the first match in North Macedonia 27:23, the Czech team turned the tide by winning 31:24 the next day.
Odense have appetite for more
Odense are back in the EHF Cup after their remarkable debut season in the EHF Champions League last year, when they made it all the way to the quarter-final before running into Groot’s Györ.
While that adventure definitely gave Odense appetite for more, they failed to qualify for the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20, finishing only third in the Danish league behind champions Team Esbjerg and runners-up Herning-Ikast Håndbold.
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Asked to compare the current Danish league to the one she played in from 2008-15, Groot isn’t sure what has changed - if anything.
“I think it’s hard to tell for me because I have changed a lot as well, of course,” the 31-year-old back says. “I think there is still a good mixture of clubs who want to build up a team with young talents and clubs who really have the ambition to win prizes. But I believe that leagues in other countries have probably developed more than here in Denmark.”
Of course, Groot counts Odense among the ambitious clubs, with a roster that includes the likes of Nathalie Hagman, Kathrine Heindahl, Trine Jensen, Stine Jørgensen, Mette Tranborg and goalkeeper Tess Wester.
“Of course we want to win everything this year, just like many teams,” she says. “It’s going to be tough but I definitely see opportunities.”
“I hope I can pass on my Györ experience”
When it comes to her own role in the team, Groot is aware of the expectations.
“My role is different from the one I had in Györ. Expectations are big, but that’s why the club wanted me,” she says. “I hope that I can pass on my Györ experience here and help the team this way.”
Regardless how deep Odense are going in the EHF Cup this season, Groot will have all the time to fully focus on her club duties.
Shortly after helping Netherlands win bronze at the EHF EURO 2018 in France, Groot retired from the national team, a decision she hasn’t regretted so far.
“I am still fully behind the choice I made,” Groot says. “In the preparation period I slightly injured my Achilles tendon and had a few other minor issues. So for my body, but also mentally, it is better to be able to take it easy during national-team weeks.”
Photo: Odense Håndbold / Kasper GlintborgAuthor: Eric Willemsen / EHF