Champions League debutants among finalistsArticle
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FINAL4 PREVIEW: Vardar enter the FINAL4 looking for their first-ever place in the final, but CSM Bucuresti coach Kim Rasmussen knows just how to stop them.

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Champions League debutants among finalists

CSM Bucuresti’s first ever Women’s EHF Champions League season was certainly not a walk in the park – the Romanian team overcame injuries, a change in coach and much-needed time to gel with several new players joining the squad this season.

But the Champions League debutants exceeded expectations, qualifying for the Women’s EHF FINAL4 after winning both matches against previously unbeaten Rostov-Don in the quarter-final phase.

Now, CSM face a daunting path toward the Women’s EHF Champions League Final, a qualification only achieved once before by a Romanian team, when former powerhouse Oltchim Rm. Valcea played Viborg HK in the 2009/10 double-leg final.

The odds seem to be stacked against CSM, who met all the FINAL4 teams during the season – their best result being a 23:23 draw against Buducnost in Podgorica.

The Romanian team lost twice against Györ and twice against Vardar, with the Macedonian side in particular wreaking havoc against CSM’s defence to win by five goals (30:25) in Bucharest.

On Saturday, CSM Bucuresti will face HC Vardar at 17:15 hrs local time and the match can be watched live on ehfTV.


Vardar: Rasmussen’s team to beat

Paradoxically, a CSM-Vardar semi-final is ideal for both teams. After suffering defeat at the hands of the Montenegrin team in both previous

FINAL4 events the Macedonian side avoided a third consecutive semi-final against Buducnost, while CSM coach Kim Rasmussen specifically wanted to play Vardar in this crucial match.

The Danish coach, who replaced Mette Klit last September, started as a consultant for Vardar in 2015, but the contract was terminated in February, only one month after his appointment.

“There are no easy teams to play against in the FINAL4 – only the best are going to battle it out in Budapest,” says Rasmussen. “But yes, I am happy with our draw. We played against all our potential opponents this season and did quite well, in spite of the injuries we had.”

“If I wanted to draw Vardar? I know them very, very well. I have the plan to beat them. And if you want me to say it, I will: If there is a team to beat for me, well, that is Vardar.”

Rasmussen will be delighted to welcome back right back Line Jorgensen and left wing Maria Fisker, who have each regained their fitness after injuries and will be at 100% in Budapest.

However, the Macedonian side, playing in their third consecutive FINAL4 after failing to qualify for the final the two previous times, will have the upper hand after winning both group phase games against CSM this season.

Pessoa’s past and future collide


If one player is to have mixed feelings about this game, it is Mayssa Pessoa De Oliveira. The Brazilian goalkeeper has been a tremendous influence in CSM’s rapid rise to stardom, inspiring the Romanian side’s defence with her startling saves.

However, as the cohort of Brazilians in the Bucuresti squad has disbanded, with Deonise Cavaleiro Fachinello leaving last December, and Ana Paula Rodrigues Belo and Fernanda Franca da Silva to follow suit this summer, Pessoa’s decision to leave the club is not a surprise.

But her choice to join Vardar, with the official confirmation coming mere weeks before throw-off at the FINAL4, will surely add another level of intrigue to an already high-octane semi-final.

“I think I made the right move. The team is excellent, with players that will fight for every game. This is a great adventure for me and I know that Vardar will have the best team next season,” said Pessoa on Vardar’s official website.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cg