Last three Group Matches tickets up for grabsArticle
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PREVIEW: Three European cities will host qualification groups of the Women's EHF Champions League over the weekend. The top scorer of the last season Zsuzsanna Tomori with her FTC and three-time Champions League winners from Viborg are also involved in the race.

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Last three Group Matches tickets up for grabs

The list of teams for the 2013/14 Women's EHF Champions League Group Matches will be completed by the upcoming Sunday as three more successful qualifiers will join HC Leipzig among the top 16 of Europe. German runners-up clinched the berth already last week, when they won the tournament of Group 1 in Trondheim.

The remaining three groups will take place in Budapest, Hungary (2), Baia Mare, Romania (3) and Eboli, Italy (4) with semi-finals scheduled for Saturday and finals for Sunday.

In the previous season the teams of Viborg, Cluj, Buxtehude and Zvenigorod booked their Group Phase tickets by those qualification tournament, while FTC won their qualification play-off matches. And Viborg and FTC have their chance to do the same again in this season.

Qualification tournament 2 (in Budapest/HUN):

FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN)
Érd (HUN)
LK Zug Handball (SUI)
HC Lokomotiva Zagreb (CRO)

14 September, 15:00 hrs. local time: Érd vs. LK Zug Handball
14 September 18:00 hrs. local time: FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria vs. HC Lokomotiva Zagreb
Place 3-4:
15 September, 14:00 hrs local time
15 September, 16:15 hrs. local time

The top scorer of the 2012/13 Champions League season, Zsuzsanna Tomori (pictured right at the awarding of the Golden Ball by EHF President Jean Brihault) will be highly motivated to lead her team FTC back into the Group Phase.

The Hungarians are the host of this tournament and they are supposed to have the favourite role. In the previous season, FTC were close to the Champions League semi-finals, but missed the berth highly close.

In their qualification semi-final against Croatian runners-up Lokomotiva Zagreb on home ground they will face a number of well-known faces from the Croatian national team.

Maybe an All-Hungarian clash will decide the spot for the Group Phase, as Érd (third ranked in the Hungarian league) will try everything to stop the Swiss champions from Zug. Neither of these two teams as part of the Champions League Group Matches before.

The winner of this tournament will proceed to Group B and will face 2012 Champions League winners Budućnost (MNE), Midtjylland (DEN) and Lublin (POL).

Qualification tournament 3 (in Baia Mare/ROU):

HCM Baia Mare (ROU)
Team Tvis Holstebro (DEN)
Viborg HK (DEN)

14 September, 11:00 hrs. local time: HCM Baia Mare vs. Viborg HK
14 September, 14:00 hrs. local time: Team Tvis Holstebro vs. SERCODAK Dalfsen
Place 3-4:
15 September, 15:00 hrs local time
15 September, 18:00 hrs. local time

Danish dynamite, Romanian home advantage or a sensation by the Dutch underdog – this is the question before the tournament in Baia Mare.

SERCODAK Dalfsen already have proved their international strength by eliminating Muratpasa from Turkey in the only play-off match of qualification stage 1.

Baia Mare also made it to the qualification for the EHF Champions League for the first time.

In contrast, both Danish teams can count on a huge international experience: Viborg are the only team among the 16 qualificants, who already lifted the Champions League trophy, as they were the winners in 2006, 2009 and 2010.

But the current teams differs a lot from this “golden generation”.

As third ranked team of the Danish league in the previous season, VHK needed a Wild Card for the qualification – and they have the tough challenge ahead to face the host, who is supposed to be supported by their spectators.

The reigning EHF Cup winners Holstebro are in a clearer favourite role against the Dutch champions.

The winner of this tournament will proceed to Group A and will face defending champions Győr (HUN), reigning Cup Winners’ Cup winners Hypo Niederösterreich (AUT) and Thüringer HC (GER). In case Holstebro make their way, all current winners of the three major EHF European Cup competitions would compete in the same group.

Qualification tournament 4 (in Eboli/ITA)

Rostov-Don (RUS)
Jomi Salerno (ITA)
Fleury Loiret Handball (FRA)

14 September, 16:30 hrs. local time: Rostov-Don vs. Fleury Loiret Handball
14 September, 19:00 hrs. local time: WHC Vardar SCBT vs. Jomi Salerno
Place 3-4:
15 September, 16:30 hrs local time
15 September, 18:30 hrs. local time

Who can stop the new powerhouse of international women’s handball? Vardar Skopje including their huge numbers of top reinforcements are the clear favourite of clinching the berth for the Group Matches in Italy.

After the signing of French, Russian and Macedonian internationals to start a complete renewal of the squad, the Macedonian champions are even predicted to go all the way to at least the Main Round. Vardar have their semi-final against the tournament host, Italian champions Jomi Salerno, who are the clear underdog in this duel.

In the second semi-final the runners-up from Russia and France face each other – and Rostov are in a lightly better position due to their bigger international experience. But in 2011 and 2012 they also failed on their way to the Group Matches.

The winner of this tournament will proceed to Group D and will face Larvik (NOR), Bera Bera (ESP) and Podravka (CRO).

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br