BLOG: Right back in the gameArticle
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In his blog before the Round 9 Match of the Week of the VELUX EHF Champions League Tom focuses on left handers.

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BLOG: Right back in the game

“Left handers are gold dust,” and nowhere is this more evident than in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Just look at the list of top scorers and in the top 20 alone, there are 13 left handed players. In any given team of 7 players generally only 2 are left-handed, so this is an incredible statistic.

It has also been an area of great news stories in terms of transfers this year. Vugrinec, Petersson, Igropulo, Barachet, Montoro and Gurbindo all made big moves.

Andersson left Kiel to be replaced by Vujin, who in turn left Veszprém to be replaced by Nagy. The search for the right “right back” is akin to the search for the Holy Grail.

You are never quite sure how they will fit into your team and the chances are that you’ll need two very good players in this position as it is almost impossible for a back court player to play for 60 minutes at his highest level.

Nowhere does the “right back” conundrum come into sharper focus than in our Match of the Week, this week. It brings into the limelight Vujin and Nagy.

They are both “right-backs”, both with ties to Veszprém and both with varying degrees of success this season.

Last season, Kiel destroyed everything in their path with a glorious season of 5 trophies, unblemished league campaign and of course the current champions of Europe.

Compare that with the previous season when they lost their league crown to Hamburg and never even made it to the Final4 in Cologne. Interestingly the team for both seasons was more or less the same, with the exception of Kim Andersson (and a certain current world player of the year, Narcisse).

They missed the losing season through injury and returned in the all-conquering one. Although Narcisse’ return was important, Andersson’s balance on the right side, coupled with his understanding of the coaches strategies and improved defence technique made him one of the greatest players for that team, in that season.

These are the boots that Marko Vujin has to fill. A regular top-scorer in the CL himself for many seasons with Veszprém, he has failed to find those heights this season. Perhaps it is not so easy to go from being the main star of a team to being one among a constellation.

Perhaps it is more difficult to go to a new culture, a new language and a team that has won everything, because this is the most difficult to maintain. He also has the rigours of the Bundesliga to cope with.

Nagy on the other hand is a returning hero (albeit a former Szeged player, Veszprém’s greatest rivals). He is Hungarian, and that is most important, so the language and the culture are no stranger to him.

But don’t let it fool you, because the Veszprém fans are just as adamant for their team to do well. He was under pressure to perform and he has shined in this group phase. He looks more at ease than in former years and is showing some touches of skill and style that I have been very impressed with.

The game between Veszprém and Kiel earlier in the group phase, which the Hungarians won, was one of the best games I have seen for many a long year. I watched it on and I was on the edge of my seat. Marko didn’t enjoy the best of returns.

Not for him the rousing applause of the returning hero from the Veszprém fans; in fact the biggest cheer was saved for “the hero turned villain” and his two minutes for an innocuous challenge on Iváncsik.

He scored 2 goals, whereas the Nagy “behind the back” pass, (twice) to Iváncsik, allied with his all-round back court shooting was a joy to behold and he top scored with 9. Nagy is way ahead in the scoring charts, albeit Vujin doesn’t get as much court time with Zeitz also in that position.

This MOTW is between two great teams this season. One is a perennial favourite to reach the Final4 and the other is the great pretender. Veszprém doesn’t need any reminder that it was Gislason’s Magdeburg that beat them in the final in 2002. At the moment, the latter has usurped the former at the top of Group B.

This is not the “red-hot” atmosphere of Veszprém; this is the “white-hot” atmosphere of the Sparkassen. Of course a game is not only about right backs, but the performance on the day of these two could decide the game. This time, Marko has the backing of the crowd and László must bring all his experience of the big game to bear. And in all the talk, Zeitz can’t be “left” out.

His explosive shooting and general “off the cuff” play (which baffles opponents and team-mates alike) gives Gislason an option, should Vujin not perform at his best. As the lights go down at the start of the game in the “Sparkassen”, when the game begins, the spotlight will be on two left-handers. Both are important “links” in their team.

On a lighter note, I have dubbed the Hungarians “Veszpanol” given the influx of Iberians and their new coach. His time-outs will become stuff of legend. Given the nature of a difficult Hungarian language and the international feel of teams, his time-outs are given in “Spanglish”. Brilliant to watch and a tactics board needed to fully understand. At least all the boys understand “vamos” at the end.

Further information
Follow the Match of the Week Kiel vs Veszprém live on on Sunday at 19.00 hrs local time.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator