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13.09.2016, 19:18◄ last page     

VELUX EHF Champions League countdown – 8 days to go: ABC/UMinho (POR). A lot of things have changed since we have heard ABC and the Champions League in the same breath. Nevertheless, they are aiming high at home and abroad.

Braga are back on a new but familiar stage

Only two goals were missing on 30 April 1994 from making handball history.

After a 22:22 draw on home court in the final of the first ever EHF Champions League season, ABC Braga travelled to Santander, but lost 21:23 in the return leg against the Spaniards, who became the first ever Champions League winner.

Still, this is the biggest success in ABC’s club history. 22 years later, the twelve-time Portuguese champions took their first international trophy in May 2016 by beating Benfica in the EHF Challenge Cup Final.

And now - after becoming Portuguese champions for the first time again since 2007 – they have crowned 2016 by qualifying for the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

In Bregenz, they beat the Austrian hosts in the final of the qualification tournament giving them their first appearance in the group phase since 2001.

One of the keys to success is Carlos Resende, the most popular and successful handball player of all time, scoring 1,444 goals in 250 international matches. Resende arrived back at Braga - where he had played in the ‘golden era’ - in 2011 as the new coach.

Now, he steers an all-Portuguese squad to the club’s 20th international season.

Making it to the Last 16 is the goal for the Champions League, while in domestic competitions ABC/UMinho hope to go all the way.

In the Champions League, they will have their home matches not in their regular Flávio Sá Leite Arena, but in the Parque de Exposicao de Braga.

Carlos Resende shares his high estimations for the new adventure: “After being part of two straight EHF Challenge Cup Finals and winning the Portuguese championship, the club, and the players have the chance to express themselves on the highest European level.

Even though all our opponents are of the highest value, we will be aiming for the knockout stages.”

Team captain Humberto Gomes calls ABC/UMinho “a modest team with a lot of history in European Handball. We are a team that embodies the true meaning of the word ‘team’, we support each other and we win as a team.

Our fans belong to the most passionate in Europe and when we play at home, the team and the spectators work together to create a difficult time for our opponents. Being part of the Champions League will be a fantastic experience for the club, the players, and our city.”

ABC/UMinho (POR)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season:  Portuguese champions and winners of qualification tournament 2

Newcomers: Dario Andrade (AC Fafe), Jose Costa (Montpellier HB)
Left the club: Nuno Rebelo (Aguas Santas-Milaneza), Fabio Vidrago (S.L. Benfica)

Coach: Carlos Resende (since 2011)
Team captains: Humberto Gomes and Pedro Seabra

Opponents in the group phase:  Besiktas, Holstebro, Nantes, Bucuresti and Zaporozhye in Group D
VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 9
Final (1): 1993/94
Quarterfinal (4): 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 2000/01
Last 32 (1): 1998/99
Qualification (2): 2006/07, 2007/08

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Semi-finals: 1999/00

Challenge Cup:
Winner 2015/16
Runners-up 2004/05, 2014/15  1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04

Portuguese champion: 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2016
Portuguese Cup winner: 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2008, 2009, 2015

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc

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