Lesson learnt, never make predictionsArticle
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BLOG: For his wrong predictions last week ehfTV commentator Tom O'Brannagain blames heart. This is one thing that you can never quantify and the thing that propelled both Szeged and Vardar to the quarter-finals.

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Lesson learnt, never make predictions

If you want to get ahead get a hat. It's an old pun, but has words of wisdom in there. For sure, I shouldn't be going around putting my head on any chopping blocks making bold statements about who might win or lose a handball game. In the overall scheme of things I overstretched. My belief that I might know more than others has come back to bite me in the gluteus maximus.

In fact as I was making the long journey home from Szeged, I suddenly remembered something my mam used to say to us when we made a fool of ourselves.

"You don't know your arse from your elbow".

I had to smile remembering it as parents are wise. The fact is that I second guessed myself in the results of the games in Vardar and in Szeged. I knew both teams were strong in their home venues, but perhaps I didn't realise, or worse remember, just how strong they are. And in the overall scheme of things, why should an Irish guy be able to second guess the coaching ability of Pastor or Gonzalez.

I shouldn't have and I wouldn't have, normally, but the fact is I couldn't second guess them. Their years of coaching has led to a point where they have forgotten more than I will ever know.

And for all my watching of games and analysing trends and patterns, there is one thing that you can never quantify; and that is heart.

Vardar and Szeged showed not only tactically how they could win, but they showed tremendous courage in doing so.

If we contrast Plock and Szeged, we can see that Plock looked like they were willing to lose the game by 5 and progress. They failed signally.

Szeged by contrast, could have lost the game by three and progressed, but they showed bravery and resilience and went out to win the game. And that was the difference. So often coaches tell their players to treat the second leg as 0-0, but that is easier said than done. This Szeged team could have wilted in two different parts of the game as RNL mounted a comeback, but on each occasion, they steadied the boat and instead of just seeing out the game, they went for the win.

Vardar did the same. In the end they could have taken their foot off the neck of Plock at six ahead, knowing that away goals would count, but they kept going, piling the misery on their Polish counterparts and won by 11. This is the area that no amount of study can quantify. The sheer pride in a jersey, in your home court, that doesn't allow you to give up. How sorely lacking is that in football, but is alive and well in handball.

Without wishing to make excuses for my sorry predictions, I was let down badly by Plock and RNL. The latter showed nothing new against Szeged, going with the tried and tested, that was known by the Hungarians and repulsed.

Defensively, they were only marginally better than the first game, but a back line of Garcia, Bombac and Balogh put them to the sword. Even Zubai and Vranjes got in on the act and in the end Pastor's troops ran out deserved winners.

Plock were as unlike a Cadenas team as I have ever seen. A general malaise seemed to grip a team that may not be tactically the greatest ever, but are fighters. Skopje shook the very ground under their feet and they fell apart. There were no good performances from Plock.

To a man, beginning with Syprzak, they showed no courage, determination or spirit. It's a damning indictment I know, but it was clear to see. Gonzalez figured out his defence, at last, and this gave the basis for an attacking game that showed their back line as top class. In this game Gorbok, Karacic and Dujshebaev ran riot. They could seemingly do no wrong and Plock paid the price for their philosophy.

So what have I learned.

Basically, "Never make predictions, especially about the future"

But isn't that what is great about sport. You can never know and every so often something happens that re-energises your interest. If everything always went according to plan, then the world would be a very boring place.

And then of course never go back on your word. There's a first time for everything, so eating a hat can't be that bad. I've checked online and there are no recipes for the aforementioned.

But approaching a second leg with the wrong attitude, well that's just a recipe for disaster.

TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator