History in the makingArticle
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MATCH PREVIEW: Never before in the history of men’s European Cup competitions has a Hungarian side faced a French team in the final, buT Szeged and Montpellier will be the first in Sunday's EHF Cup Final

History in the making

Montpellier for the first time or Szeged for the first time? This is the question ahead of the EHF Cup Final in Berlin on Sunday, after the Hungarian side eliminated host Füchse Berlin (24:22) and the French record champions had beaten HCM Constanta (36:32) in the semi-finals on Saturday.

EHF Cup Final:
Pick Szeged (HUN) vs. Montpellier Agglomeration (FRA)
Sunday: 15.35 hrs. local time in Berlin live on ehfTV

Never before in any competition of the European Cup in handball, has a final match between teams from France and Hungary taken place. Looking upon the history of the EHF European Cup competitions, the last Hungarian title was won by Veszprem in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2008, after the same club had won the same competition in 1992. The only Hungarian winner in a competition similar to the EHF Cup, the IHF Cup, was Györ in 1986.

In the EHF Cup, no French club has even reached the final in history, the last trophy in a European Cup competition won by a French team, was the EHF Champions League in 2003 by Montpellier, before that was the Cup Winners’ Cup won by OM Vitrolles in 1993.

So the spectators in Berlin will be part of a very historic moment on Sunday. Szeged has never won a European trophy, nor been a finalist. So they have the chance to make history on the 46th birthday of their coach Juan Carlos Pastor - but the birthday kid does not care bout the date of the final: “It is a handball match is in focus, not my birthday.”

There are still three people from the 2003 Champions League triumph in the Montpellier squad: Coach Patrice Canayer, who started his mission at MAHB exactly 20 years ago, left wing Michael Guigou and goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer. While Guigou has never played for a different club, Omeyer is back where it all started, after a highly successful period in Kiel, including three Champions League titles, befroe he moves once again to PSG in the summer.

“There’s not so much to compare by looking upon the situation and the team in 2003 and today,” said Guigou, adding: “The two major differences are: we do not play the decisive final match at home in Montpellier, and the team of 2014 is definitely not as experienced as our team was in 2003.”

Eleven years ago, Montpellier became the one and only French EHF Champions League winner with an aggregate victory against Portland San Antonio - and in the final, the stars of players like Thierry Omeyer and young sniper Nikola Karabatic rose to prominence.

Szeged do not have a triumph like this on their tally, but they have the same optimism as Montpellier after eliminating host Füchse Berlin on Saturdy. “We will try everything to win this trophy, especially as a birthday present of our coach,” said team captain Attila Vadkerti.

And there’s still one very special constellation of the EHF Cup finalists: While Thierry Omeyer and William Accambray, who will miss the final due to a finger injury, will transfer to Paris, one goalkeeper and one back court ace will leave PSG: Spaniards Jose Manuel Sierra and Antonio Garcia - and their next club is? Exactly, Szeged!

Another important question will be the role of the German, mostly Berlin, fans in the final: Which team will they support? “We hope to get them on our side,” said MAHB goalkeeper Omeyer, who’s dream can come true on Sunday: “I have won so many trophies and titles, but never the EHF Cup. So hopefully the time has come now.”

In the history of EHF European Cup competitions, Montpellier and Szeged faced each other eight times, with five MAHB wins and three for Pick - all matches had been played in the EHF Champions League, never before in the EHF Cup.

One decisive point of the final will be which team recovers best from their exploite in the previous game: “We did not have such an intensive match against Füchse, so I believe we are really fit for the final,” said Szeged captain Attila Vadkerti. Meanwhile Michael Guigou has the same hopes: “We are used to recover quite quickly.”

The final can also make recent history. If Szeged win, it is the second straight EHF final tournament this season won by a Hungarian team, coached by a Spaniard after Györ, coached by Ambros Martin, took the title in the Women’s EHF Champions League. There’s still a third chance, as Hungarian men’s champion MKB-MVM Veszprem are qualified for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 and coached by Carlos Antonio Ortega. What a story that could turn out to be.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor