So who had HSV Hamburg for the title then? Not just when the Final 4 was drawn and it was clear they would have to beat the big beasts of THW Kiel and FC Barcelona but back in September when they only just edged the Wild Card tournament final (coming from behind to beat hosts Saint-Raphaël Var) and then pitched into a group that included Flensburg-Handewitt, Montpellier, Reale Ademar Leon and Chekhovskiye Medvedi. But, despite all those obstacles, HSV have earned the right to be called European champions.
The Velux Final 4 had a bit of everything in the end. It had the relatively easy semi-final that showcased the grit of the victors: Barcelona on the back of 8 from Rutenka always had the edge over the Poles of Vive Targi Kielce. It had the semi-final with the result you didn’t see coming: Domagoj Duvnjak inspiring his Hamburg team-mates with 11 goals and Hamburg emerging victorious from a goal-fest. The Zebras almost unable to work out what had gone wrong. And then, in the third-place play off it had a confusion of names Kiel/Kielce (just me?) and the underdogs almost but not quite throwing away a 9 goal lead but hanging on – Kielce thus finished 3rd, Kiel 4th. And the main drama still to come.
If Hamburg’s semi-final had been a goal-fest the first half of the final was a defence-fest and one that looked like going the way of the Catalans. But with the first five minutes of the second half having more drama than the entire first the game swung. Twice Barcelona were pegged back only to take the lead again. Across the court were contests – not least in the goal. Sterbik in the Barcelona goal proved almost impossible to fire past whereas the athletic Bitter for Hamburg found his blocking limbs. Heading into the final stages Hamburg somehow had a four goal lead with a fast break that could have made it five … but Jansen missed and within the blink of an eye (it seemed) we were all tied. With the score at 25:24 Rutenka had a shot saved by Bitter but the rebound went straight back to him rather than the defence and making no mistake a second time we moved to extra time.
This was the first final to be decided in extra time and by now the crowd had discovered its German patriotism. I doubt there was a neutral across Europe wanting any result other than a victory for Martin Schwalb’s men. All were to get their wish but not before ten minutes of tension were played out.
As always seems to happen the scoring slowed. Neither side wanting to allow the other to dictate the pace. Hamburg caught a break when awarded a 7m penalty for a phantom foul and when Lindberg (the tournament’s top scorer) hit it to put HSV in front that was that. Just the small matter of a Bitter save, a Barcelona steal, a shot over the top and a final attempt after time up to cram into the remaining 120 seconds. Hamburg had earned the right to cling on. Their joy was unconfined, Barcelona looked shell-shocked.
“So much drama …” said ehftv commentator Tom O’Brainnagain. He was right. This was a final that reminded you of the straightforward magnificence of sport in general and the brutal beauty of handball in particular.
Want to see it again? Oh, go on …
Live handball returns to our legal internet streams again this weekend with the final three games of Matchday 1 of the Main Round of the EHF Women’s Champions League. This is where the competition gets properly serious and there’s a lot to look forward to.
Saturday sees what is probably the Match of the Week as Györi Audi play host to Buducnost in a rerun of last season’s final. Buducnost have not travelled particularly well on their Champions League travels this year losing to both Thueringer and Zvezda Zvenigorod in the previous group round. Györi qualified from the group with six wins from six and in Anita Görbicz have the poster girl for the women’s Champions League (at least as far as every EHF advert ever produced is concerned). You’d probably back Györi today but without going too far out on a limb there’s a reasonable chance that as well as their return fixture these two will meet again in the knock out stages – although Larvik, who won last week, may disagree.
Sunday in Group 2 sees, happily enough, two matches. at 2pm UK it’s the Russians of Zvezda Zvenigorod against the Slovenians of Krim Ljubljana. Ljubljana needed a last-match win to come through the previous grouop stage whereas their opponents, who had to come through a qualifying tournament to reach the Champions League won five matches for an easy progression. Let’s assume that at home they will do so again.
The second group 2 match is between CS Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea (that’s easy for you to say, etc etc) and the team that the EHF and the listings call FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria but that wikipedia wants to call Ferencvárosi. Either way, both these teams have pedigree: the Hungarians are twice Champions League finalists and current EHF Cup Winners Cup holders; the Romanians are likewise previous finalists and have also won their domestic title eighteen times in the past twenty-four years. The hosts will have to do without Cristina Neagu, the world’s best player in 2010, who following a return in the autumn from a 20-month lay-off has now torn her ACL and will play no more this season. As for who will win today: CS Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea are so far unbeaten in the Champions League and “FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria” dropped only the match away to Larvik, and that was after they’d qualified. Which means I haven’t a clue but it should be close.
Links to all the matches – as well as some in the EHF Cup and other tournaments – can be found here.
Thanks to the good offices of the indefatigable Rena Fairbrother (find her on twitter, your handball life will be better) Handball Views is pleased to be able to present an interview with Holly Lam-Moores, British international and current Viborg HK player.
In the interview, Holly talks about the highs of the Olympics, the relative lows of what’s followed and her future plans, as well as her hopes for handball’s British future. It was recorded after the recent Esbjerg-Viborg game.
Apologies in advance to Alison Chowns, the splendid interviewer, and Holly herself but I can no more edit the file than you could find the stop button at the end of the interview.
The last day of action in Groups A and B sees two matches out of the six that are head to head to battles that will determine progression. The rest are dead rubbers – although group rankings obviously impact on who teams will face in the knock out stages. Just to repeat myself: to see any of these games go to either livehandball.tv or Bet365.com. There is no UK TV coverage.
The non-essential games are (all times UK): 5.15pm unbeaten France against variable Germany; 7.45pm eliminated Montenegro against qualified Brazil (both Group A) – and 2.45pm 2-1-1 Russia against 0-5 Chile; 7.15pm cruise control Denmark against already through Macedonia (both Group B).
The match that matters in Group A is Argentina versus Tunisia and it’s on at 3pm. Argentina opened with a good win against Montenegro but since then have lost to Brazil, Germany and France by reasonable margins. Tunisia are in the bizarre position of having beaten Germany and run France close but still facing elimination after they came unstuck against Brazil. A draw will be good enough to put Tunisia through but if Argentina win then as head to head is (apparently) the first determiner they will progress as both teams will have four points. I’m still backing Tunisia but they will need to solidify at the back and bully Argentina as they almost bullied France. Argentina sleepwalked through the match against France but will be stronger today. It should be a good one.
In Group B it really should be a comfortable win for Iceland over Qatar (starts 5pm). The only reason for thinking otherwise is that Qatar have been okay when it comes to attack so should score enough to keep the match interesting and that Iceland have been wobbly in crunch moments both in this tournament and in the Olympics (remember back to their penalty miss that would have won the match against Hungary). If we get to the last stages and its close we could see nervousness and that might produce the upset. A draw will see Iceland through – if Qatar win then both teams will have four points so they should progress on the head to head.
There will be an opening ceremony at which pretty people will sing and dance about unity and harmony, and possibly mime throwing a ball into a happy net … and then the players will come on and get down to the nitty gritty of trying to win a world title by brutally beating everyone else. Today there is but one match: the hosts Spain take on Algeria (starting at 6pm UK).
Spain are the 2005 champions, ranked 8th in the world and are hosts. Algeria are ranked 21st in the world and finished second to Tunisia in the 2012 African Championships. The two teams met during qualifying for the Olympics – Spain running out 28:20 winners in Alicante. Anything other than a massive, morale-boosting win for the Spaniards will be a major surprise. Expect the Algerians to push the boundaries of legal defence to the limit if they are to stay close and try and sneak something.
The match isn’t live on UK TV. If you want to watch you’ll need to spend £39.99 subscribing to livehandball.tv (this covers every match in this tournament) or deposit any sum in a Bet365 account and watch the lower quality live streaming there.
Every tournament needs an official song. Some homily to international understanding, peace and harmony accompanied by a video shot through with people waving flags in quasi-jingoist jubilation. The exception – Serbia dressing its female handballers for an evening as escorts – proves the rule. Or at least I assume it does. I have no idea what is being said in the official video for the 2013 Men’s World Handball Championships as, being a proper Englishman, I don’t speak foreign.
My assumption is that it’s all about how the glorious Spanish will triumph over any team caught wearing a #hummelkitnightmare during the forthcoming tournament. The title is ‘Siete Metros’ but the video doesn’t seem to show much happening at the 7m line. Quite an Iberian puzzler.
But even without any knowledge of Spanish it’s a nice enough song in a jangly, almost-indie-90s, sort of way. If I was on Jukebox Jury, I’d say hit.
For the British handball fan with access to the internet, balance on your debit card and time to plan a city break a couple of major events have announced the opening of ticket sales.
First up is the Men’s World Championship which is taking place in Spain in January 2013. Preliminary group day tickets are now available with prices ranging from €10 to €35. So for roughly the price of a League 2 football match you could be sitting in a premium seat watching top level international handball. The plane to Madrid from London is probably cheaper than a train around England as well. Details here.
Then there is the Velux Final 4 which is the culmination of the EHF Champions League in June 2013 and held in Cologne. During the initial sales window 10,000 of the available 19,000 tickets were sold. There are now more available. Last year Final Countdown ‘rockers’ Europe provided the headline for the accompanying entertainment, no word yet on whether The Scorpions will provide the 2013 crowd pleasers. Prices range from €60 to €240 and there are details here.
Before both those tournaments there is the Women’s Euro 2012 taking place in Serbia. Watching 15 top nations battle it out for the right to finish second to Norway should make for pretty decent pre-Christmas entertainment and the men’s edition held earlier this year also in Serbia (the Netherlands withdrew from hosting the women’s event in mid 2012) was notable for the ferocity of the local support and general passion of the crowds. In a mostly good way. Tickets will be available from Monday 17 September with day tickets for the preliminary round starting at €6 which is the price of an average cup of coffee in London. Details here.