Aiming for higher goalsArticle
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Romanian champion, HCM Constanta, start CL with a completely new team and great expectations.

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Aiming for higher goals

Belgium has a great tradition in making chocolate, not so much in playing handball. Romania has a rather great handball tradition with winning World Championships several times – but this is history.

Constanta have easily qualified against SasjaNowadays Romanian men’s teams are glad to qualify for the group matches of the Champions League, but as the opponent in the qualification round came from Belgium, it was not a great surprise that the Romanian champion HCM Constanta reached their first objective of the season.

Also because both matches were played at the Black Sea coast, Constanta were the favourites. After winning 31:26 and 32:32 against Belgian champion KV Sasja, the players could celebrate their third participation in the CL in four years.

Difficult CL group

Constanta will need a great performance in Group B to reach their next objective: third place and qualification for the Cup Winners’ Cup. They will play against reigning champion, THW Kiel, French top club, Montpellier HB, and Swedish Hammarby.

Everybody considers us outsiders in our group, but all games start from 0-0 and we will play 7 against 7 on court. We will play against some really powerful teams in the group and I hope we will manage to play very good handball,” said Coach Lucian Rasnita after winning the qualification matches.

He has hard work to do, as nearly the complete team changed before the start of the season. Eight players left the club including Milutin Dragicevici (Silkeborg) and Mihailo Petrovski (Aarhus), who signed contracts in Denmark. So the club made a multicultural team with seven new players. Iuliu Alexandru Csepreghi or Daniel Muresan came from other Romanian clubs, the Hungarian Timusin Schuch joined Constanta from Györ, the Croatian Tomislav Broz came from Iceland, the Czech Petr Hejtmanek from France, Serbian player Uros Vukovic was playing for Red Star Belgrade before and the Greek Evangelos Voglis Schjolin came from AEK Athens.

Optimistic squad

Broz, coning from Iceland, was one of the most prolific players However, coach Lucian Rasnita is optimistic to build a team very quickly: “The matches against Sasja were our first official games of the season. We have a new team, different from last season, so we have to give everything in order at the Champions League games we have to play. Let’s just hope that Constanta will at least repeat the performances from last season.”

Last year, Constanta finished third in their CL group and reached the quarterfinals in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Goalkeeper Ionut Stanescu has even greater ambitions:

“We are not a team yet due to the several changes. Many players left, many players arrived, so we have to be patient about that. I’m sure we will manage to play quality handball in the Champions League group as we always did. I really think this time we can go on to the main round.”

In case this would happen, it would be a new milestone for Romanian men’s handball. No men’s team has ever “survived” the first group phase. The greatest achievement in the CL was the very first match of Constanta in this competition: on 16 October 2004, the Romanians have beaten the record winner Barcelona by 29:27.

Special indicator

From this day on, the Romanian clubs were a good indicator for the later-on winners in the Champions League: the teams that won the first round (group matches) in the group of the Romanians, won the CL afterwards – at least in the last three years. In 2005, it was Barcelona, 2006 Ciudad Real (playing against Bucharest) and 2007 Kiel (playing against Constanta).

This might be a good omen for the German champion – or Montpellier?

TEXT: Björn Pazen