Jonas Knudsen is lining up the big guns in the new year after Esbjerg fB booked their place in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase with victory over rueful Elfsborg IF.
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The Esbjerg fB players were all smiles as they took stock of their advance to the UEFA Europa League knockout phase, with Jonas Knudsen already looking forward to next month's draw. "I hope we get a big team," he told uefa.com, his excitement a stark contrast to Mikkel Beckmann, back in his native Denmark with Elfsborg IF, who felt a draw would have been a fair result.
Jonas Knudsen, Esbjerg defender
It was a big game for us. We are delighted that we secured this 1-0 win, which means we go through to the next round of the UEFA Europa League. We missed some big chances in the first half but we managed to get the goal in the second. It is very big for us. Elfsborg are a good team and I was a little nervous towards the end, but we have a strong defence so it was not too bad.
We have had a dip in form in the Danish league after starting the season strongly, so I am very happy we returned to winning ways today. Now I hope we draw a big team. Of course we have more chance against a smaller team, but I hope for someone like Tottenham or maybe Dortmund.
Jakob Ankersen, Esbjerg winger
We create a lot of chances and are dangerous on the counterattack, and with a little more luck we could have put the game out of reach. We are working hard on being more clinical in front of goal. It is amazing how many big opportunities we had today and it is disappointing that we did not convert more of them.
But when we keep it tight at the back it makes it easier to get results and we saw that today. It been a while since we last kept a clean sheet, so overall I am very pleased. Teams in the Danish league know that our most dangerous weapon is in the transition, so we are trying to be better at carving out chances in other ways too.
The fact that there are more supporters when we play at home in Europe is a huge factor in our success, as it gives us an extra 5%. From the start of the campaign our aim was to just enjoy playing in the Europa League. That we have progressed to the next round is a huge accomplishment. We will savour this moment and I am very excited to see who we will face in the next round. They will be amazing matches to feature in.
Mikkel Beckmann, Elfsborg forward
It was a 50-50 match as expected and as was the case over both our matches against Esbjerg, but they had the luck and skill to grab the victories. We have not had the rub of the green this season and it was the same here. I do not think this game deserved a winner. It was not a pretty match, but they got the goal. We tried to put them under pressure after the goal and I know they had a few huge chances as we risked more and more, but before the goal I did not feel they were better than we were.
It has been a good experience playing in Europe, but as a player you want to pick up results, and the fact that we have not been satisfied with our play or results overshadows my joy of playing in the Europa League right now. We played a good game against Standard at home [drawing 1-1], but apart from that I do not think we have been at our best. We have to pick ourselves up for the remaining two games because there is nothing but pride to play for. Of course we would like to finish of strongly at home, but we are up against the best team in the group [FC Salzburg], so it is going to be tough.
Kevin Stuhr-Ellegaard, Elfsborg goalkeeper
I thought it was quite even and both teams did a good job, but we need more chances than them to score a goal. I felt it was an even game but we did not take our chances. Just before they scored we had a big chance, one on one, but we missed it. We have endured a tough season and everything has been going against us to be honest. We do not deserve to be in a higher position in the league and then all of a sudden you have to play the Europa League, against even better teams. We will have to improve for next year.
We have an experience team with players who have played outside Scandinavia and have a lot of quality. We have tried hard to play good games in the Europa League but we have suffered with a lack of confidence and it has been difficult. It is really important you play well in Europe for the club and for yourself, because you want to win football games as a football player. We are the only club representing Sweden in Europe so we will have to finish with two good games and hopefully we will do that.