Hammer and anvilArticle
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BLOG: The quarter-final clash between Kiel and Barcelona resembles a blacksmith. ehfTV.com commentator Tom O'Brannagain insists the winner has to be both the hammer and the anvil.

Hammer and anvil

When I was asked to give my power ranking for 1-8 for the current ties in the EHFCL, I thought why bother with 5-8? I mean if they are beaten, how are you going to power rank them anyway. The problem for me is that any given team has strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited or used against certain teams that don't always function against others.
I'm not going to delve any further into the hows and whys I think that, but I will write now, for you, exactly what I said.
Vardar should beat Flensburg, but could also lose.
PSG will win.
Veszprem will win.
And I honestly don't know who will win between FCB and Kiel.

Now I know what you're thinking. Apart from the second two I haven't actually said anything. The fact is that the teams from Group B this season have shown themselves to be capable of an off-day. In fact their off-days are the equivalent of packing a picnic for the beach and forgetting to check the weather forecast which portends a hurricane. So after last week, Vardar should still win, but .... they could also lose.

And now to my MOTW. Barcelona vs Kiel. The fourth time this year that these two behemoths of handball will meet each other. Are we bored? Not a chance. There is something about them that just sends chills up your spine. You just know that no matter what the score line might look like throughout the game, that there will be more twists and turns before the final whistle than a worm aerating your soil. I can't judge between them. Even the scores after three games this season shows only +1 for Kiel. After 180 minutes of handball, that is negligible and I expect the same come Saturday.

All the experts have Barcelona ahead. They walked the Group stage. Losing one game and playing a fantastic brand of handball. I mean, I expected very little from them this season and their early form did little to dissuade me from my feeling, but you cannot argue that they have been on fire. But as VT8 said to me: "It's no good peaking too early".

Well you couldn't say that Kiel peaked early at all. They were shocking through the group stage. They looked sluggish and slow and lacking in any creativity. I always felt though, that the young players looked very promising. Sure, they would make mistakes, but their speed reminded me of an earlier Kiel. The truth was that when Duvnjak played, the game and the ball stopped with him. We know now he was suffering fatigue and knee problems, but the biggest loser with Dule in the middle was Vujin. It's no surprise to me that suddenly he looks to have found form. No, he is suddenly getting the ball at speed and he is a clever mover and shooter.

I went back and forth in my mind as to who impresses me the most and the list was endless. The young players have settled in at both clubs. Pascual maybe has an easier time allowing younger players to develop with the schedule for Spanish league not being as hectic as the German Bundesliga, but still his imports have made a splash. Andersson was looking good (best of luck in rehab Lasse), Dika Mem, N'Guessan etc all looked to settle in well. The Zipper is starting to really fit in and Jallouz can produce incredible things. Add to that the experience of the "old-timers" and the mix is there.

This could end up being the longest blog ever as I pick apart the whys and wherefores, but as I thought about the game, I was struck with the idea that if I had to make the choice it would be like being caught between the hammer and the anvil.

And Longfellow's line came to me:

"In this world, man must be either the anvil or the hammer"

And I wondered which team is which. If you look at the game last week, then Kiel would be the hammer. They played with such a ferocity that it initially set Barca on their heels. Led by "The Blacksmith" Wiencek, they hit Barca at every available opportunity, mostly within the laws of the game. But hey, Barca are no wimps themselves. When the hammer attack of Kiel hit the anvil defence of Viran and Sorhaindo, well they knew that they had been hit too.

It was played as if the game was a one-legged affair. Neither team could draw away from the other. The game this weekend won't lack the passion, but might need a few cooler heads to find the way over the line.

I think in truth the team that will progress is the one that takes heed of Benjamin Franklin:

"When you're an anvil, hold you still; when you're a hammer, strike your fill".

Because a championship team needs to be both hammer and anvil. All the necessary tools to make that horseshoe that might just bring you a little luck along the way.

They say that the best ability is availability and maybe, just maybe the players are coming back for Kiel at the right time. Weinhold is key to them. If he plays well and he normally does, then the whole team plays well.

I don't know what wins championship games. Is it coaching? Is it skill? Is it concepts? I don't think anyone knows. My belief is, that it is the intangibles. It's the three Ds.

Desire. Dedication. Determination.

What I do know is that only a die-hard would bet his house on this one. But if I ever got the chance to play at this level? If I got one chance to be in a game that gets me to the greatest handball show on earth? Then this is the line I would live and die by.

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light"

Dylan Thomas

I wouldn't want to leave anything on that court. I wouldn't want to look back when my career was over and regret. One of these young teams has a chance to begin a new chapter for their clubs.

That's why we will never tire of these two teams facing off.

As the hammer and the anvil strike, one of them is going to "forge" a new dynasty.

TEXT: ehfTV commentator Tom O'Brannagain