A step into the unknown for Dinamo
There is an obvious sense of ambition and progress in C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti’s camp ahead of the new season. The “Red Dogs” are looking further and further to improve their status as one of the Eastern powerhouses in the VELUX EHF Champions League.
Last season, Dinamo suffered an agonising exit from the European premium competition, after dominating Sporting CP on their home court in the first half of the Group C/D elimination play-offs. The Romanian side suffered an inexplicable collapse in the second half, as the Portuguese visitors took advantage and knocked their hosts out of the competition.
A revamped Romanian club is now edging closer to their biggest ever performance in the VELUX EHF Champions League, with their focus solely on reaching the Last 16 phase for the first time in their history.
Three questions before the new season:
- How will Dinamo cope with so many new additions?
Several key players – the likes of Vitaly Komogorov or Hugo Descat – have left Dinamo and the Romanian side was left scrambling in search for new additions that might have boosted their hopes for the new season. A clever management paired with good scouting helped boost Dinamo’s ranks, as the towering right back Jakov Vrankovic made his comeback after a one-year stint in Hungary, while backs Imam Jamali, Raul Nantes Campos and Stefan Vujic are ready to fire on all cylinders when the season starts.
However, with so many fresh faces – eight players in total, several of which might prove key this season – Dinamo will definitely exhibit some growing pains. As the season progresses, there is no indication that the Romanian champion will be weaker than their last outing in the VELUX EHF Champions League.
- Have they learned from their previous mistakes?
Last season, Dinamo were the underdogs, but proved to be flawless on their home court until their tie with Sporting CP that was ultimately their undoing. But Dinamo were no pushovers in away games, despite winning only two of their six games last season as guests. This time, if Dinamo are to fulfil their goals, they will need more consistency from players like Kamel Alouini or Amine Bannour, who have the experience and strength to decide games, but can also disappear from the radar in key moments. Consistency is also needed between the goalposts, where Makrem Missaoui and Saied Heidarirad have been superb, but lost focus at times.
- How realistic is the goal to reach the Last 16 phase?
In a packed competition like the VELUX EHF Champions League, going on a limb and making an ambitious prediction can always bite you in the back. “I think the teams from this year are much stronger, but let’s not forget that last year we were ranked fourth in the group and finished in first place,” says team captain Dan Savenco. And while rankings can be easily turned on their heads, Dinamo is only looking forward. The “Red Dogs” might have some holes in their roster, but if their back line experiment succeeds, they will improve on last season.
Under the spotlight: Amine Bannour
Dinamo always seem to find a way to snap up players on the cheap under everyone else’s noses and improve them on the big stage. It was the case with Iranian left back Sajad Esteki three years ago and now Tunisia’s Amine Bannour takes centre stage. A towering right back with a cannon in his arm, Bannour scored 60 goals in 10 games for Dinamo, including a 11-goal outing against Abanca Ademar Leon in the group phase. However, Bannour’s form faltered due to injuries in the second part of the season and went amiss against Sporting CP, where he only scored twice in the do-or-die game in Bucharest. When a player can go from hero to zero, he will always be under the spotlight, but Bannour will have a newfound rivalry with Jakov Vrankovic that can only make him more focused on the task at hand.
Key transfers always bring great pressure and the heat is on Dinamo right now to deliver some good news to the fans and great performances on the court. “For us it is the fourth consecutive participation in the VELUX EHF Champions League group phase and we want to be part of the show, especially we have behind us the best supporters from Europe,” says Dinamo’s team manager, Ovidiu Semen. As the football team’s performances are dire, many fans have migrated to the handball side and the Dinamo Arena can be as raucous as any arena in Europe if needed. Therefore, now Dinamo rely both on an improved team and a great set of fans to challenge for glory in the European top competition. “The opponents from this season are stronger than last year. But, in this exceptional competition everything can happen,” adds Semen.
Dinamo thrive on being a multicultural club and this year they will apply the same successful recipe from last season. There are players from seven different countries in the team: Romania, Tunisia, Iran, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt and Brazil.
What the numbers say
With 12 wins in the VELUX EHF Champions League – seven in the last season – Dinamo are the most successful Romanian team in the history of the competition.
C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti (ROU)
Qualified for VELUX EHF Champions League 2019/20: Romanian champions
Newcomers: Raul Nantes Campos (Helvetia Anaitasuna), Jakov Vrankovic (Tatabanya), Mamdouh Shebib (Montpellier HB), Stefan Vujic (Steaua Bucuresti), Alexandru Asoltanei (HC Buzău), Călin Hossu (U Cluj Napoca), Andrei Lazar (CSM Bucuresti), Imam Jamali (Telekom Veszprem HC)
Left the club: Hugo Descat (Montpellier HB), Andras Szasz (Tatabanya), Vitaly Komogorov (Tatabanya), Stefan Grigoras (CSM Făgăraș), Ciprian Șandru (Potaissa Turda), Florin Acatrinei (CSM Vaslui)
Coach: Ștefan Constantin (since January 2018)
Team captain: Dan Savenco
VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2019/20 season): 5
Elimination Play-offs: 1 (2018/19)
Other EC records:
16 titles (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1978, 1986, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
4 titles (1979, 1982, 1988, 2017)