A new name on the winners’ list, or Füchse for the second time?Article
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FINAL PREVIEW: Saint-Raphael want to continue their dream in Magdeburg, while Berlin coach Petkovic and goalkeeper Heinevetter hope for their third EHF Cup title.

A new name in the winners’ list, or Füchse for the second time?

Will it be a German club for the 18th time – the fifth since the implementation of the new format – or a French team for the first? This is the question prior to the EHF Cup Final in Magdeburg on Sunday. Finalists Saint-Raphael Var Handball and Füchse Berlin know each other well after meeting for five duels in the last 15 months.

Before the trophy match, hosts SC Magdeburg and dethroned champions Frisch Auf Göppingen face each other to decide third place.

• Saint-Raphael can make history as the first ever French EHF Cup winner
• Berlin can win their second trophy after 2015 and extend the list of German triumphs (18 so far)
• The current top scorers of the competition – Hans Lindberg (76 goals) and Raphael Caucheteux (73) – vie for two trophies in the final
• The Damgaard brothers Michael and Allan face each other in the 3/4 placement match

Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA) vs Füchse Berlin (GER)
Sunday 20 May, 15:15 local time, live on ehftv.com

No EHF Cup pairing has occurred more in the last 15 months than the duel between Saint-Raphael and Berlin. These sides met in the group phases of the 2016/17 season (with each team winning their home match) and 2017/18 (with each club winning their away match). In between, the ‘Foxes’ won the 2016/17 Semi-final clearly, 35:24. Now, they battle for the trophy at the Ottostadt Magdeburg EHF Cup Finals.

In what is their second EHF Cup Finals participation, Saint-Raphael have their first final ahead, while it is the third EHF Cup Final for Füchse after they beat Hamburg on home ground in 2015 and lost against Göppingen in 2017.

Overall, it is the third final of the newly merged EHF Cup to feature a German and a French team. But it is the first one on German ground, after HBC Nantes were defeated at home, by Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the premiere of the new format in 2013 and by Göppingen in 2016.

As Montpellier lost the 2014 final against Szeged (HUN), Saint-Raphael are the fourth French side to duel for the trophy since 2013. “It is a dream coming true for us to be part of the final, but we can win even more,” says coach Joel da Silva.

While German teams have taken the EHF Cup trophy 18 times since 1994 and 13 times in the last 14 years, Saint-Raphael can make history as the first ever French winner of this competition, either in the old or the new format. In his last international match before the end of his career, Geoffroy Krantz can win his fourth European trophy. He won the previous three with the German club VfL Gummersbach – the EHF Cup in 2009 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2010 and 2011.

The focus will be on the two current top scorers of the competition: Saint-Raphael left wing Raphael Caucheteux netted 11 times in the thrilling semi-final win over Magdeburg (28:27) and is on 73 strikes in total. But still, he is below Füchse right wing Hans Lindberg, who tallied nine in their 27:24 victory in the semi-final against Göppingen to top the ranking with an overall of 76 strikes. One year ago, Lindberg, who was Champions League top scorer in the 2012/13 season, was the EHF Cup top scorer with 92 goals. “I don’t care if I become top scorer again – it is all about the trophy and the team success,” says Lindberg.

Berlin coach Velimir Petkovic has the chance to win his third EHF Cup trophy after steering Göppingen to two titles in the old format in 2011 and 2012, while Füchse goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter can raise the trophy for the third time – funnily enough, at the same place where he won his first title, in 2007 with SC Magdeburg, before he claimed the title with Berlin in 2015.

SC Magdeburg (GER) vs Frisch Auf Göppingen (GER)
Sunday 20 May, 12:45 local time, live on ehfTV.com

The teams clashing to decide third place count a combined seven EHF Cup trophies – but this year they must settle for the disappointment of losing the semi-finals. “I hope that we can pay back our great fans today after we did not manage to make it to the final,” said Magdeburg coach Bennet Wiegert.

The match is headlined by the duel between brothers Michael (SCM) and Allan Damgaard (Frisch Auf Göppingen), as well as the fact that Göppingen’s Jens Schöngarth and Jacob Bagersted face their former club. It is a rematch of last year’s semi-final, won by Göppingen on home ground.

In the overall statistics (including domestic competitions), Magdeburg won 26 out of 42 duels, while Göppingen were victorious 12 times. In the current Bundesliga season, Magdeburg won both clashes, 32:31 away and 30:27 at home.

“It is always hard to motivate for a match like this, but we want to make our fans happy, who travelled the long way to Magdeburg,” said Göppingen playmaker Tim Kneule.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg