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.
If you’re a fan of Kiel or Atletico then you’re in luck today because if you’ve got two chances to see your boys on British TV.
The lovely folks at Premier Sports will be showing today’s EHF Champions League group match in full at 4.15pm UK (Sky Channel 428) whereas British Eurosport 2 (Sky 411) will be showing highlights at 11.30pm.
British Eurosport 2 is also your home for the Euro 2012 Daily Show. Throughout the tournament at midnight and 5.45am they will be showing an EHF-produced review of the day’s events. No live coverage that I can see – for that you’ll need to head over to the EHF Euro YouTube channel.
Without that much fanfare and with your humble blogger missing it in the excitement of the Match of the Week news the EHF have announced that all group stages matches in both the men’s and women’s Champions League tournaments will be live at ehftv.com.
The schedule for the men’s matches is confirmed (although it wasn’t up at ehftv.com when I checked) but the women’s will be determined after the results of this weekend’s qualification tournaments which sees two Brits going for Champions League glory in the same group: Holly Lam-Moores for Viborg and Kathryn Fudge for LC Bruehl. There are four places in the main group stage available – the losers have the pleasure of the EHF Cup Winners Cup.
I’ll have a preview and hopefully some idea of where to watch the women’s qualifiers up tomorrow.
And so after a weekend of some predictability and some drama the final entrants into this season’s EHF Champions League are known: the long road to Cologne and the Velux Final 4 can begin.
The three qualification tournaments didn’t produce close finals: HCM Constanta (Romania), HC Metalurg (Macedonia) and RK Partizan (Serbia) saw off their opponents by an average of ten points. The fourth event, the Wild Card Tournment, did produce a decent contest though as home side Saint-Raphaël Var (France) were pipped in extra time by HSV Hamburg of the Bundesliga. It was tough on the French side, in particular their goalkeeper Yohann Ploquin, who blocked well at crucial moments only to see his outfielders not drill home the advantage. Saint-Raphaël Var had a lead of up to 4 at various points in the second half of normal play and Hamburg were only actually in the lead for the final seconds – taking the game 32:31 with Blazenko Lackovic scoring the winner with his only goal of the match.
There are full details of the groups here and British Eurosport 2 should be showing some games live from late September, in addition to which you should be able to find regular live matches at the EHF’s own site and on Bet365.