Veszprem on the thresholdArticle
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BLOG: After an up and down first leg in Paris, Veszprem find themselves with a golden opportunity to reach their maiden VELUX EHF FINAL4

Veszprem on the threshold

As I sit to write this blog at the business end of the season, quotations from Goethe come to my mind, particularly from the book Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship. Veszprem are on the threshold of a magnificent season. A moment they have craved and coveted over the past four seasons. They want this, they need this and they are on the brink of achieving it. The destination is the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and they are almost at ground zero.

Goethe wrote: “Every beginning is cheerful; the threshold is the place of expectation”. This could have been written for both our clubs featured in this week’s MOTW, but primarily for Veszprem.

For so many years they have waited in line for their big chance and finally the time looks to have arrived. So often over the past few years have they fallen at the final hurdle, that the expectation levels have rocketed skyward. It has always been my feeling that Veszprem believed themselves to be better than they are, particularly in previous seasons. They finish the group stages at, or near the top and then expectation outweighs potential. But this year, at least with the signing of Ilic, they have placed themselves very near the top with their peers.

It is true that: “The excellent is rarely found, more rarely valued”. We, as devotees of handball, should value this game; it is a match between two excellent teams. World class players playing the game we love in front of fans steeped in the history of the game.

“Opportunity is transient”

In my opinion, the draw has been kind to them whatever the sound bites emanating from the camp. PSG is a team that that suits the Hungarian’s style of play. This is not to say that it was an easy draw, but there could have been harder. Both teams play with a swagger and an élan that encourages individuality, collective ability and offensive prowess. Each of the teams at this stage is tough, yet a two-goal advantage coming into the second leg supports what I have always said.

Goethe also wrote in that famed paragraph that: “Opportunity is transient”. It is brief, it is fleeting and it is changeable. You don’t have to explain that to Veszprem. How many opportunities have passed them by in years gone by? And again, in the first leg away in Paris, it seemed at times that no one wanted to seize the moment.

If you discount the first seven minutes of that game where it was nip and tuck, Veszprem outscored their opponents by five (8:3) in the following nine minutes. The next 17 minutes saw Paris outscore them by 8 (12:4), to take a three-goal advantage and then within six minutes Veszprem had taken a two-goal lead having outscored Paris by five (9:4) again. It shows how quickly the pendulum can shift and how patience will be key.

I have no explanation for this. Is it momentum, lack of concentration or the fact that both these teams are exceptional at any given portion of a game?

And be assured that this Paris team is excellent. They have goal-scoring options all over the court and individual brilliance to boot. But so does Veszprem. Upon closer examination, my assertion (in the last Google hangout) that the diamond of Ilic, Chema, Nagy and Sulic is better than its counterpart holds true. They scored, between them, 21 of Veszprem’s 28 goals. By contrast the Paris diamond scored 14 out of 26. In the end, Veszprem seized the opportunity, although, at times, it was presented to Paris themselves.

Veszprem and its fans are on the brink of a momentous achievement. A two-goal lead with a second leg at home is the stuff dreams are made of. The can taste the FINAL4.

Goethe claims that: “The heights charm us, but the steps to it do not”. Veszprem wants the FINAL4, but the last four years have brought nothing but heartache. They have had enough disappointments and disillusionment to last any club a lifetime, but:

“With the summit in our eye, we love to walk the plain”.

The summit is there for all to see. It is within 60 minutes of play. They need to savour the moment and bring to bear the support of over 5,000 fans. There will be moments in the game when things may not go their way and in those moments they need the positivity and push to get them over the line. The fans need to bask in this moment and enjoy what could be a relentless march to Cologne.

This is not to assume that Veszprem are a shoo-in, but they will never have a better chance. The years of history have proved to them that the opportunity is transient and that could weigh on them like an albatross about the neck.

 My opening quote from Goethe is sometimes erroneously quoted as:

“The threshold is the place to pause”

For Veszprem, all they have to do is pause, take a breath and finish the job.

TEXT: Tom Ó Brannagáin, ehfTV commentator