Baby boom and reinforcements from arch rivalsArticle
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Women’s EHF Champions League club countdown: 14 days to go – FTC Hungaria Rail Cargo (HUN) aim for the main round with new arrivals from Györ, Vac and Thüringer HC.

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Baby boom and reinforcements from arch rivals

Seven times, each under different names, FTC Hungaria Rail Cargo have qualified for the EHF Champions League quarter-finals – including in 2002, when they made it to the final.

Now, in their 17th Champions League appearance, the Budapest-based club with roots in Ferencvaros aim to count among the top eight teams again.

The team of coach Gabor Elek underwent several changes since they contested the Women’s EHF FINAL4 2016, mainly because Serbian goalkeeper Katarina Tomasevic, who will be replaced by Blanka Bíró, and line player Piroska Pappne Szamoransky are on maternity leave. Pappne Szamoransky’s successor is Dutch Olympic semi-finalist and Women’s IHF World Championship 2015 silver medallist Dannick Snelder, arriving from German champions Thüringer HC.

After FTC left their arch rivals Györ behind in the 2014/15 domestic league, Györ struck back in the Champions League 2015/16 Quarter-finals, defeating FTC and later on becoming finalists.

But since then, one Györ key player joined Ferencvaros: centre back Aniko Kovacsics. With her, FTC aim to fight the current champions for the domestic trophies and make it to the Champions League Quarter-finals again. 

In the group matches, the Hungarian runners-up have difficult tasks ahead with HC Vardar, Russian champions Astrakhanochka and HC Leipzig. Against the German cup winners FTC have motive for revenge, as they were eliminated by Leipzig two years ago in the Champions League Qualification Tournament decided in a penalty shoot-out.

“It is our turn to beat them,” says FTC team captain Zita Szucsanszki, before adding regarding the other group opponents: “Vardar are a very strong top team, strong. Astrakhanocka have lost some players, but Russian handball is always very good.”

Manager Laszlo Bognar expects “big fights in the group matches” too, but is confident the team will make it to the main round and then the first knock-out stage:

“For us, it is a kind of prestige to be among the best teams in Europe. Only through top level matches can a team develop.”

FTC Hungaria Rail Cargo (HUN)

Qualification for the 2016/2017 EHF Women’s Champions League season: Hungarian runners-up

Newcomers: Blanka Biro (Ipress Center-Vac ), Aniko Kovacsics (Györ), Danick Snelder (Thüringer HC)

Left the club: Anita Cifra (Dunaujvaros), Monika Kovacsicz (break), Piroska Pappne Szamoransky, Katarina Tomasevic (both maternity leave)

Coach: Gabor Elek (since 2008)

Team captain: Zita Szucsanszki

Opponents in the group phase: HC Vardar, Astrakhanocka, HC Leipzig in Group B

Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2016/17 season): 17
Finalist (1): 2001/02
Semi-finalist (2): 1996/97, 2000/01
Quarter-finalist (4): 1999/2000, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2015/16
Main round (1): 2012/13
Group Phase (6): 1994/95, 1995/96, 1997/98, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2013/14, 2016/17
Qualification (2): 2009/10, 2014/15

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Winner (1): 2005/06
Semi-finalist (1): 2004/05
Last 16: (1): 2008/09

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winner (2): 2010/11, 2011/12
Semi-finalist (2): 2006/07, 2014/15
Quarter-finalist (1): 2013/14
Last 16 (1): 1998/99

Hungarian champion: 12 times (1966, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2015)
Hungarian cup winner: 12 times (1955, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1977, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003)

TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg