PSG Handball – Telekom Veszprém
FINAL4 is nothing new for the Hungarian superpower Telekom Veszprém: this is their fourth participation at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in a row which is already something that needs to be respected. On the other side, probably the richest handball club in the world, PSG Handball managed to break the quarterfinal curse last year and reached their first ever FINAL4 where they finished 3rd. PSG can count on the best players of the world, this is shown very well in the All Star Team of this season’s edition: 5 players from the 10 positions are wearing the blue-red kit of PSG. The star-filled French team, having superstars like Mikkel Hansen, Nikola Karabatic or Uwe Gensheimer, is probaby the main title contender this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. This FINAL4 playing system has proven many times that underdogs can surprise the big names and in these 48 hours, everything is possible.
Last year, it was probably Veszprém that had the most chance to win the gold, still Kielce made a miracle in the last quarter of the game. The team of Spanish coach Javier Sabate will face major changes in the summer, some players will retire and some new players and Ljubomir Vranjes are arriving to Hungary, so this is the last chance in the Sabate-era to reach the long-chased golden dream. The Hungarian team has shown an improving form ahead of the FINAL4: in the Hungarian league, they defeated Pick Szeged in the final. The same Pick Szeged that caused a lot of trouble for PSG in their quarterfinal duel. In the latest times, Máté Lékai, Aron Palmarsson and the goalkeepers were the leaders of Veszprém, but the main problem can be the age of the squad. Many of the key players are over 35 years and this seemed to be decisive in the last periods of many matches. On the other hand, PSG’s coach Zvonimir Serdarusic has a complete Dream Team in his hands but the best players don’t always mean the best team. The main question is if Serdarusic will manage to bring out the most of these undoubtedly extraordinary and great players. If yes, it will be very hard to stop PSG on the way to the trophy.
Veszprém played a memorable and dramatic final last year against Vive Tauron Kielce where the Hungarians lost by penalties, after leading by 9 goals in the middle of the second half. Last season, the other Hungarian superpower Győri Audi ETO KC lost the women’s final by penalties and Veszprém copied their result. This year, the girls from Győr sat up on the throne of European women’s club handball. Will Veszprém manage to copy the girls’ result once again?
The two teams have faced each other in the Group Stage and both matches ended with narrow victories for the French team. One thing is sure: we won’t miss excitement and emotions in the first semifinal between these two great teams.
HC Vardar – FC Barcelona Lassa
After more years of unsuccessful trying, HC Vardar finally met the expectations and reached the first ever FINAL4 of the club’s history. Reaching this huge milestone and shaking the huge pressure off, the red-black team doesn’t want to stop here but their disadvantage of being new to the final event can also be their advantage. On the other hand, FC Barcelona Lassa aren’t new to this stage of the competition. Even though they missed the last edition of the VELUX EHF FINAL4, they have already left Cologne with the trophy in the hand (2010/11 and 2014/15). From the four participants, they are the only team that know what it takes to win the Champions League-trophy. The Spanish team has 9 Champions League-trophies on the conto and they are always a force that needs to be counted with. The Catalan team won’t miss experience on their side: players like Raul Entrerrios, Jesper Noddesbo, Victor Tomas or Kiril Lazarov have seen everything that can be seen in handball and can make the difference in important matches like this semifinal.
On the other side, a Spanish coach with some Spaniards can try to stop them: head coach Raul Gonzalez was voted the best coach of the competition and his compatriots like Arpad Sterbik, Alex Dujshebaev or Joan Canellas can do a lot to help him prove that he deserves his place on the list. Besides the Spaniards, there are also excellent players that can be decisive on this level of the competition: Igor Karacic, Timur Dibirov or Ivan Cupic always have some magic to show. If Vardar can control the nerves and the excitement of playing their first ever VELUX EHF FINAL4, they will give a hard time to Barcelona that has shown a balanced performance this season. Vardar and Barcelona haven’t met this season, but Vardar has already played an international FINAL4. The Macedonians managed to break down one more barrier: they won the SEHA League FINAL4 with a confident performance against Telekom Veszprém.