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ehfTV commentator Tom Ó Brannagáin expects a fight for every centimetre in the O2 World in Hamburg as Flensburg will try to climb back in the last Match of the Week this season.

BLOG: Any given Sunday

MOTW takes us to Hamburg and the O2 world this weekend for the second leg of the quarter final between Hamburg and Flensburg. Strangely enough, this is the first time MOTW has visited Hamburg at home. We have seen this very strong team many times on the road, but we are boldly going where we have never gone before.

The “noisy neighbours” from northern Germany must be sick of the sight of each other already this season. Having already faced each other twice in the group stages, with a win apiece, they have just met each other three times in the last three weeks.

Two 23-23 draws in the league and cup (albeit Flensburg went on to win after extra-time in the cup semi-final) did not give us a hint of the demolition job that Hamburg did on Flensburg in the Campushalle. Led by the talismanic “Demigod” Duvnjak, they turned the match on its head in the second half with a 10 goal turnaround. They lead by 6 goals, as we know, with a tremendous away goals tally of 32.

Only the most avid and loyal Flensburg fan will give their team any hope in the away leg. It’s not a true reflection to say that they are away from home in this match, as you can be sure that legions of Flensburgers will navigate south to support their team, thus creating a home away from home. The O2 world will facilitate this as it is a huge arena.

Handball is a very unforgiving game. Three mistakes can lead to a huge turnaround in a score line. 6 goals are not an insurmountable gap. Kiel has overcome 6 goals twice in matches. Once in the 2010 final against Barcelona and more recently in the last 15 minutes against Veszprém. Also a 6 goal lead is very precarious and Hamburg must be sure that momentum doesn’t go Flensburg way early, with the thought in the back of their head that they can lose by 6 and progress. As I said handball is very unforgiving and the bounce of the ball or the “rub of the blue” on the day can sometimes be against you.

However, this Hamburg team has many game changers; the aforementioned Duvnjak, of course, as well as Lacković, Lijewski, Bitter and many, many more. I want to give a big mention to Flohr as well, who does a lot of the hard graft for his team and has become an indispensible member of HSV.

So what can Ljubo do to rally the troops? Well, he might have to give “The Speech”. Tony d'Amato's speech from “Any Given Sunday”. I have held it in reserve for such an occasion and have paraphrased it for handball and of course the metric system.

“I don't know what to say really.
Three minutes
to the biggest battle of our professional lives
all comes down to today.”

“But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of centimetres.
So is handball.
Because in either game
life or handball
the margin for error is so small”

On this team, we fight for that centimetre
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that centimetre.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that cm.
Cause we know
when we add up all those cm
that's going to make the difference
between WINNING and LOSING
between LIVING and DYING..

Now I can't make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that cm with you.
You are going to see a guy
who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That's a team, gentlemen
and either we heal now, as a team,
or we will die as individuals.
That's handball guys.
That's all it is.
Now, whattaya gonna do?

We have seen this season that the team that is willing to fight for that lost ball, that centimetre, is the team that wins. Flensburg faces the fight of their lives. Can they give Hamburg the fright of their lives? As I said only the most loyal and avid Flensburg supporter would think so. But, handball is a game, where, you can never take winning for granted.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator