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19.09.2016, 16:40◄ last page     

VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown – 2 days to go: SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER).

Dreaming of returning to Cologne

Before Vive Tauron Kielce leaped onto the winner’s podium in May 2016, the Champions League triumph of SG Flensburg-Handewitt in 2014 had been the biggest surprise ever at a VELUX EHF FINAL4 event. After the team of Ljubomir Vranjes missed another ticket to Cologne in 2016 by only one goal in the quarter-final at Kielce, they now dream of another berth at the LANXESS arena in the 2016/17 season.

“We played a great season and we increased our consistency. From this, we will try everything to qualify for the VELUX EHF FINAL4. But in a group such as ours, the first goal is to proceed to the Last 16, as even that will be anything but easy,” Vranjes said.

SG Flensburg finished second in the Bundesliga, below Rhein Neckar Löwen, but ahead of THW Kiel. For the new season, the ticket for the VELUX EHF Champions League is Flensburg’s main objective on domestic ground. The Vranjes’ squad basically did not change at all - as only one Croatian player (Kresimir Kozina) left and another (Ivan Horvat) arrived. The rest of the roster remains the same for the ultimate season of left winger, Anders Eggert, in a Flensburg jersey, as he will return to Denmark in 2017.

Before SG can experience true and top handball, as manager Dierk Schmäschke says, Flensburg must be perfect. “This is the toughest group ever in the Champions League history. Every single match represents world class and you have to be at 100% in all the matches to be victorious.” For Schmäschke, there are no favourites in this group. “Kiel, Veszprem, Paris, Barcelona and Flensburg are on an equal level, but we all need to have respect for Schaffhausen, Plock and Bjerringbro, too.”

Swedish-born team captain, Tobias Karlsson, expects a tough fight for the Last 16 spots: “This group consists of five teams - Kiel, Veszprem, Paris, Barcelona and Flensburg, who can all win the Champions League - there’s nothing more to say about our opponents. Even the three remaining teams are well-deserving Champions League participants, but those are the opponents we need to beat to have a good base for the Last 16. In the knockout stage, anything can happen.”

Similar to their group phase opponents PSG and Barcelona, Flensburg was the third club to be represented on both sides in the Olympic final in Rio by silver medallist Kentin Mahe (France) and Danish Olympic champions, Henrik Toft Hansen and Lasse Svan.

The fans in Flensburg are eager to welcome the top-class opponents in the FLENS Arena, as manager Schmäschke adds, “Over the past 20 years, Flensburg are constantly playing in the European Cup competitions and now have qualified for the Champions League for the 12th time. To be among the world’s best clubs is very important for us and makes us proud. The Champions League is by far the most important international competition in handball, with the absolute highlight being the FINAL4. That is why Cologne is our dream destination.”

SG Flensburg-Handewitt (GER)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: ranked second in Germany

Newcomers: Ivan Horvat (GRK Varaždin 1930)
Left the club: Kresimir Kozina (Füchse Berlin)

Coach: Ljubomir Vranjes (since 2010)
Team captain: Tobias Karlsson
Opponents in group phase: Veszprem, Barcelona, PSG, Bjerringbro, Plock Schaffhausen and Kiel in Group A

VELUX EHF Champions League record:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 12
Winners: 2013/14
Final (2): 2003/04, 2006/07
Semi-final (1): 2005/06
Quarter-final (5): 2004/05, 2008/09, 2010/11, 2012/13, 2015/16
Last 16 (1): 2014/15
Main round (1): 2007/08

Other EC records:

Cup Winners' Cup: Winners 2000/01, 2011/12

EHF Cup: Winners: 1996/97

City Cup: Winners 1998/99

German champions: 2004
German cup winners: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2015
German supercup winners: 2000, 2013

TEXT: Björn Pazen / tm

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