Experts shine their light on the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4Article
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FEATURE: With the finals tournament of the Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 only days away, asked well-known handball experts for their predictions for Budapest
»2018-19 Women's News

Experts shine their light on the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4

Budapest is once again the place where the Women’s EHF Champions League season will come to end. This weekend, defending champions Györi Audi ETO KC, Vipers Kristiansand, Metz Handball and Rostov-Don will battle it out for the coveted trophy.

In the build-up to the absolute highlight of the women’s club handball season, asked a string of experts, including coaches and players, about their expectations.

Which team has impressed the most so far this season?

If one team has impressed all the experts we asked, it is French newcomer Metz Handball. The club has reached Budapest for the first time after coming close in the past couple of seasons. “The team has been more or less the same for three years now. Players have gained experience and some really talented ones have arrived to make this team even stronger,” says Olivier Krumbholz, who won the EHF EURO 2018 with France. “They hold a very high level in all key aspects of the game. We saw that when we played against them. They play a very dynamic and effective way of handball,” adds Jan Pytlick, coach of Odense HC this season.

Which teams will make it to the final?

While Györ are widely expected to work their way past Vipers in the first semi-final, who would they meet in Sunday’s final? As Metz have impressed this season, most experts expect them to advance to the final. However, one particular expert is pretty confident that another team could change all that. “Rostov have been playing with pretty much the same squad for the last couple of seasons, and it usually takes two to three years to build a team. I think they can do well,” says Evgeni Trefilov, the Russia national team coach. “I expect Metz and Györ to meet in the final,” says Brest player Isabelle Gulldén, who lifted the trophy in 2016 with CSM Bucuresti. “Rostov-Don are also a very good team. Furthermore, they have got Anna Vyakhireva back, but I still do not think they can stop Metz,” adds Pytlick.

Are Györ the big favourites once again?

If, like most experts say, Györ and Metz were to meet in the final, which team will lift the trophy? “I believe Györ will win,” says Gulldén. But for Krumbholz the situation is not as clear: “Over the course of one game, anything can happen. For sure, playing in Hungary is a huge factor for Györ, but Metz have got the qualities to stop them.” David Davis, the Spanish coach who led Hungarian side Telekom Veszprém HC to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in June, believes that Györ “are a strong team even after Ambros Martin left. The management continuously sign good players and the new head coach, Gábor Danyi, is doing a great job which makes them the favourites.” For Kim Rasmussen, the Hungarian national team coach, Györ also look like favourites. “They have two world-class players in every position, and even three in some positions. We only have to look at their backcourt line: Stine Oftedal, Nycke Groot, Nora Mørk, Zsuzsanna Tomori, Anne Mette Hansen… Those are all leading players in their respective national teams, and of course, it is extremely hard to beat a team like that.”

How do you stop the title-holders from winning again?

So what is the key to stop Györ from retaining their title? “To stop Eduarda Amorim, who starts their pressure very often,” says Gulldén. For Rasmussen the answer is not that simple: “It is extremely difficult, and I doubt if any team is able to do it. They may have a small weakness in their defence, even though I think they have improved that part, too.” Davis mentions that the opponents have to have a really good day: “In handball it is always the same: the best defence and the best goalkeepers are the key for success, however it is a tough quest to prevent the Hungarian side from the three-peat as they technically play at home.” And Krumbholz: “The fact that they’re playing almost at home can somehow become a pressure, too. If you want to stand a chance in the final, you have to stay neck to neck with them for as long as you can.” Beata Siti, who won the EHF EURO 2000 with Hungary, has already found the tactics: “In order to win over Györ, the opponents need to slow them down. First, Oftedal and Groot must be forced to make mistakes and run the offence not as good as they usually do.”

Which players have impressed the experts?

The Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 All-star Team will be revealed on the eve of the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4, but which players have left our experts in awe? Gulldén names two Norwegians, Katrine Lunde and Stine Oftedal, as well as Majda Mehmedovic, whose CSM Bucuresti missed out on a ticket to Budapest this time. “I can name Rostov’s players like Sen and Vyakhireva,” says Trefilov, while Rasmussen names a trio: Laura Glauser, Anna Petrova and Nycke Groot. Pytlick votes for Metz centre back Grace Zaadi, who is “a dynamic and powerful playmaker and crucial to their play.” Dragan Adzic, the coach of Buducnost, adds the final name to the list: Nora Mørk, who jas just returned from injury. “If she’s fit to play on her top level in Budapest, that could be a real game-changer.” For Davis it is hard to single out players: “I would not highlight three players. I would rather say that the work of Ambros Martin, Gábor Danyi and Emmanuel Mayonnade is something I mostly focus on: the tactics, the speed, and how each club plays as a team.”

TEXT: Kevin Domas, Peter Bruun, Nemanja Savic, Sergey Nikolaev, Bela Müller / ew