Just dessertsArticle
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BLOG: Tom Ó Brannagáin takes a look at Sunday's Match of the Week between Rhein Neckar Löwen and Veszprém, likening the teams to tasty treats.

Just desserts

After last week’s thriller in Plock, we head pretty much in the same direction, eastwards to Veszprém for their titanic struggle against Rhein Neckar Lowen. It’s difficult to judge both teams after their first matches; Veszprem had a Sunday stroll against St. Petersburg and RNL, well let’s just say they were out walking in much stormier weather.

RNL return to the VELUX EHF Champions League as a much different team to the “superstar” team that they had when they reached Cologne a few seasons ago.

Veszprém is pretty much unchanged. The German team showed their mettle with a third place finish in the league, while Veszprem once again reigned over Hungary.

But this competition is the Holy Grail for Veszprém. They are, in the immortal words of Tom Petty,

“Runnin' down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads”

It really is a mystery to know why this team hasn’t reached the FINAL4 yet and consistently chokes at either the quarter-final or last 16 phase of the competition. For four years running 2009-12, they lost to Spanish teams, the last time against Leon in strange and heart-breaking fashion.

So the management team thought: “If you can’t beat them, join them” and brought in a Spanish coach. Unfortunately for them, the plan backfired as it was a German team that awaited them in the quarter-finals in 2013 and Veszprém had to wait yet again.

Contrasting styles

Both teams, on paper, look to be equally strong. A good handball team has layers. A bit of this, a touch of that and a smattering of the other!

RNL has these layers. I would liken it to a trifle. All the layers clearly marked in the glass bowl. The toughness of the Balkan and Russian players, the machine-like Nordic players, the functionality and skill of the German, a touch of style from the Spanish and they even have a Swiss player to keep the timing in a metronomic, orderly fashion.

A trifle is a dish you can depend on, it’s not going to excite you, but you know just about everyone will eat it. However when you sprinkle on the hundreds and thousands, in the shape of Gennsheimer and Groetski, then it becomes a little more special.

I would liken Veszprém, on the other hand, to a Tiramisu cheesecake; tantalising, tempting, daring, full of eastern promise and panache.

It is a special dessert. Not one to be undertaken lightly because you don’t know if it will be to everyone’s taste. The general mix of Veszprém team with the ingredients that Ortega has brought to the table is completely opposite to the German team.

There are so many unknowns in their style of play. At times unplayable, at times unfathomable, each mouthful they serve you evokes so many emotions. Chema is equally brilliant and irritating, Jamali is unorthodox, and with Nagy they have a man of undoubted genius. Add Ilic to the bowl and they are a dessert fit for kings.

One year into his reign, Ortega’s team is showing his style and if I were to have one criticism, it is that they haven’t got a substantial backup to Nagy in the right back position.

It will be a worthy MOTW. Europe is willing Veszprém on this year to finally clear that hurdle to reach the Final4. This game will set down an early marker for this team.

RNL should really be coming here with 2 points in the bag and some will say it was a “trifle” bizarre that they let a win slip away from them in round 1. Others will say that Veszprém haven’t gotten its “just desserts” over the past couple of seasons.

Whatever the outcome, I know that we will be served up a four course meal of outstanding handball that will leave us all “Hungary” for more.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator