Turda aim for second trophy match as semi-finals launchArticle
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SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Icelandic and Portuguese islands host the first leg of the Men’s Challenge Cup Semi-finals on Saturday.

Turda aim for second trophy match as semi-finals launch

The Icelandic island Heimaey and the Portuguese island Madeira will host the launch of the Men’s Challenge Cup Semi-finals, with both first-leg matches to be played on Saturday.

Turda chase another final berth

On Heimaey, the largest island in the Vestmannaeyjar group, IBV Vestmannaeyjar will host AHC Potaissa Turda for the first leg on Saturday afternoon. While the hosts have never reached this stage of a European competition before, the Romanian visitors are chasing their second successive Challenge Cup Final berth.

Last year, Turda lost the trophy match against Sporting CP by 15 goals on aggregate, and the Romanian side are obviously keen for the chance to do better this season.

“I believe we have a 50:50 chance over two games, in which the team who makes the fewest mistakes will succeed,” Turda coach Gal Horatiu tells eurohandball.com.

“They will be two high-engagement matches, where we aim to pull off the surprise and reach the final.

“Vestmannaeyjar have a very strong team with a disciplined and exact game, and they have the advantage of an excellent homogeneity in their squad – 11 players out of 22 being local – but of course, we will play our chances,” adds Horatiu.

Showdown in Ronaldo’s hometown

In Funchal, the city where a certain Cristiano Ronaldo was born 33 years ago, AM Madeira Andebol SAD will continue their effort to keep the Challenge Cup trophy in Portugal, after Sporting won the tournament last year.

On Saturday evening, they host A.E.K. Athens, who are chasing their first European final – just like their opponents.

“So far, we have had a very positive trip around Europe, and we are very proud to have our beautiful island competing in the semi-final, from which we will obviously do our utmost to reach the final,” says Madeira coach Paulo Fidalgo.

“The Greek team have great defensive qualities – their players are very strong physically, and particularly good one-against-one and two-against-two. Furthermore, they have fast wings who are particularly crucial on fast breaks and fast transitions.

“However, we are eager to print the name Madeira SAD into the history of the Challenge Cup.”

Fidalgo’s counterpart, A.E.K coach Niko Grammatikos also expresses respect:

“We have reached the semi-finals, where we are going to play against a very strong Madeira team with a lot of good players. We have studied all available data on our opponents, and we intend to make the best of that.

“I believe in my players, and I trust that we are ready for the tough battle we are probably in for,” says the A.E.K. coach.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cg