The magic number 13: Paris and Vardar fight for the trophy
Will HC Vardar become the second VELUX EHF FINAL4 debutant after SG Flensburg-Handewitt in 2014 to raise the trophy? Or will Paris become the second French club after Montpellier in 2003 to win the Men’s EHF Champions League?
Those questions will be answered in the final of the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season today in Cologne.
Both sides won their semi-finals by a one-goal margin and both sides play in their first EHF Champions League final.
PSG goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer can win his fifth EHF Champions League trophy after 2003 (Montpellier), 2007, 2010 and 2012 (each with Kiel).
Triple IHF World Handball Player of the Year Nikola Karabatic can become the first male player to win the EHF Champions league with four different clubs (Montpellier 2003, Kiel 2007 and FC Barcelona 2015).
Vardar right wing Ivan Cupic can become the first player since 2009 to defend a Champions League title after raising the trophy with Kielce in 2016.
PSG coach Noka Serdarusic can become the third coach after Alfred Gislason and Talant Dujshebaev to win the EHF Champions League with two different teams.
If Vardar win, FYR Macedonia would be the sixth country with a Men’s EHF Champions League champion after Spain, Germany, France, Slovenia and Poland.
The winner of the final will be the 13th different club to win the EHF Champions League trophy and the sixth different winner in six years.
FINAL - VELUX EHF FINAL4: Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) vs HC Vardar (MKD) Sunday, 4 June, 18:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
It is match 208 of the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season, and it will decide whether HC Vardar or Paris Saint-Germain become the new champions and successors of Vive Tauron Kielce.
Both sides have been the lucky and close winners of their semi-finals – PSG beat Veszprem 27:26, while a last-second goal from Luka Cindric sealed a first-ever final appearance at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for HC Vardar, who beat FC Barcelona Lassa 26:25.
“It will definitely be a close match,” said PSG coach Noka Serdarusic about the final which has seen both teams meet each just twice to date. In the group phase of the 2013/14 season, Paris drew away in Skopje and won the home match clearly 35:25 and never before have the two teams faced each other on neutral ground.
Both top scorers of the current VELUX EHF Champions League season wear the PSG jersey, with Uwe Gensheimer on top with 113 goals, ahead of Mikkel Hansen (95).
Both had been Champions League top scorers before, and it looks like Gensheimer could repeat his success from 2011. “But I don’t care about this award, I only want to win this final,” the German international said after his semi-final win.
Vardar have just one former IHF World Player of the Year – goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik while PSG can count on four of them: Nikola Karabatic, Thierry Omeyer, Mikkel Hansen and Daniel Narcisse. The star-studded PSG squad also consists of seven 2017 IHF World Champions and two Danish Olympic champions.
“We have to count on the same strength as in the semi-final: defence and goalkeeping,” said Vardar team captain Stojanche Stoilov.
Match winner Luka Cindric added “20 hours is not enough time to recover and to prepare properly, so we need to fight, fight and fight.”
An overall of six All-star Team players of the current season – five from Paris and Vardar’s current top scorer Alex Dujshebaev – plus All-star coach Raul Gonzalez (Vardar) are part of the final.
Dujshebaev can continue his successful family story after his father Talant had steered Kielce to the trophy in 2016 while PSG coach Serdarusic can follow on from Talant Dujshebaev and Alfred Gislason to become the third coach to win the trophy with two different teams.
After the Vardar women made it to their first-ever EHF Champions League Final four weeks ago, when they were defeated by Györ in extra-time, the men’s side of Skopje-based club has already made history by making it to the final in the same season.