Countdown part 23: HCM Constanta (ROU)Article
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Can international experience and a new coach lead the Romanian champions to the Last 16?

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Countdown part 23: HCM Constanta (ROU)

On domestic ground they are out of reach of their opponents and are aiming for the third straight double again this season i.e.championship and cup.

HCM Constanta are eagerly awaiting the start of their VELUX EHF Champions League campaign and they are hoping to make it to the Last 16.

For the seventh time the Romanian champions have made their way to the Group Phase, but only once – in the 2009/10 season – did they manage to qualify for the next stage of the competition.

This season they even had to go through qualification, but Constanta did not have any problems in beating their opponents - including finalist Tatran Presov from Slovakia - on their way to the dream destination - the Last 16.

Constanta did not only sign four new international experienced players, but a new coach too. Zvonko Shundovski is the new boss of the bench and he will have a double function this season, as he still is coach of the Macedonian national team, which qualified for the world championship 2013 in Spain.

The most important newcomer is well-known at the Black Sea: Milutin Dragicevic. From 2005 until 2007 he wore the Constanta jersey before transferring to Silkeborg (Denmark) and then to THW Kiel.

Now Dragicevic is back were he started. Another inspiring newcomer is Serbian international Dalibor Cutura, arriving from Ademar Leon.

But despite those transfers, Constanta are far away from being the favourite in their Group B with opponents like the two 2012 finalists Kiel and Atletico Madrid, plus top sides Veszprem and Celje.

In their new hall Sala Polivalenta “Ioan Kunst Ghermanescu”, Constanta hope for an additional boost from their fans.

New club vice president Marius Puscasi is looking forward to those top games: “We are honoured to play in the VELUX EHF Champions League again, our group is very strong, with such teams like MKB Veszprem, Atletico Madrid, Celje Pivovarna Lasko and THW Kiel.

Though this group is very strong, our team is stronger than last season and we hope to put on a good show.”

Team captain Laurentiu Toma is also convinced of the strength of his team. “I’m very pleased to play in a very strong group against the best possible teams of the VELUX EHF Champions League. I’m sure that we’ll play some good games, and with hard work, experience and devotion we are in with a shout,” he said.

Three questions for coach Zvonko Shundovski:
What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the VELUX EHF Champions League?

Zvonko Shundovski: My expectations for upcoming season are very optimistic. We respect all our opponents, but we will fight until the last second of each game. And I am 100% sure that the team will be strong and can compete with the other teams.

What does the participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?
Zvonko Shundovski
: Playing in the VELUX EHF Champions League is always a new challenge for our team and we all are looking forward to playing against the best teams in Europe.

Which teams are your personal favourites to reach the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and for winning the title this season?
Zvonko Shundovski
: Looking back at the past seasons, I think the German and Spanish teams will make up the VELUX EHF FINAL4 teams, as they did in past seasons.

Qualification for the 2012/2013 VELUX EHF Champions League: winner of the qualification tournament 3, Romanian Champion

Coach: Zvonko Shundovski, since 2012

Newcomers: Milutin Dragicevic (THW Kiel), Daliobor Cutura (Ademar Leon), Javier Humet (CAI Aragon), Alberto Val (CAI Aragon), Ianco Ionut (CSM Ploiesti)

Left the club: Alexandru Stamate (Baia Mare), Gheorghe Irimescu (CSU Caras Severin), Chike Onyejekwe (CSM Ploiesti), Marius Novanc (Bacau), Nikolaos Riganas (destination unknown)

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2012/2013 season): 7
Last 16 (1): 2009/2010
Group Phase (5): 2004/2005, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2010/2011, 2011/12

Other EC records:
Cup Winners' Cup:
Semi-final: 2005/2006
Challenge Cup:
Semi Final: 2003/2004

Romanian champions: 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Romanian cup winners: 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc