Five talking points after Women’s Champions League Main Round 6
The end of the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round sees Györi Audi ETO KC lead the pack after Ambros Martín’s team won in Larvik, clinching first place in almost all aspects of the competition.
Buducnost’s win in Budapest did not hurt FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria as the Hungarian runners-up avoided their bogey opponent, while HC Vardar finished on top of Group 1.
FTC content with second
You would think FTC might be upset with their home defeat against Buducnost, having beaten the Montenegrin outfit in Podgorica, but Elek Gábor’s team are quite content with the final result of the group.
Defence and goalkeeping dominated the match in Budapest on Saturday, where FTC trailed for most of the game and fought hard, but lacked the usual grit and eventually said goodbye to their unbeaten main round run.
Though it is not exactly a delight to be pitted against the defending champions CSM Bucuresti in the quarter-finals, playing against Midtjylland was definitely something FTC wanted to avoid – FTC have met Midtjylland four times, with the Danish side emerging as winners on every occasion.
Behold the reigning champions
It is true that CSM Bucuresti are a different side than they were in 2016, when they reached the top of the Women’s EHF Champions League against all odds, but it would be no surprise if they make it to the FINAL4 again.
Key signings Majda Mehmedovic and Gnonsiane Niombla needed time to settle, but led by the magnificent Isabelle Gullden, Bucuresti suffered only one defeat in the main round and comfortably clinched a place in the quarter-final.
No team has defended their title since the FINAL4 format was introduced, and Bucuresti are not the favourites to achieve that – but few thought they could go all the way last year.
Make no mistake, Buducnost mean business!
Maybe it was down to the fact that the Montenegrin outfit is in a transition year, but the notorious Moraca was neither an impregnable fortress nor a jam-packed arena opponents dreaded early in the season.
Incredibly, both FTC and Vardar took all the points from Podgorica, which left Buducnost with one single home win in the main round.
However, Dragan Adzic’s team won all their away games in the second stage of the Champions League, which is bad news for their quarter-final opponents Larvik, who were already defeated twice at home this campaign. Their clash should be the most interesting match-up of the next stage.
The proud couple of Skopje
The Macedonian capital proudly presents a team in both the men’s and women’s EHF Champion League knock-out stages, so there will be no time for family picnics at the Dibirovs’. While Timur’s Vardar await their VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final opponents, his wife is getting ready for their clash against FC Midtjylland.
Three-time world champion Irina Dibirova knows a thing or two about elite women’s handball and Vardar found back to their winning ways under her guidence. The Macedonians are desperate to win the title, but the fact that Dibirova is the fourth coach of the team in 2016/17 speaks of a troubled season.
Dibirova may lack sufficient coaching experience, but playmakers make the best coaches, as shown by Ljubomir Vranjes and Talant Dujshebaev.
Fancy a bet?
The bookies are heavily favouring Györ ahead of the quarter-final stage. However, they were the clear favourites last year, when Bucuresti shocked the quasi home team.
You can triple your bet with Vardar, while Buducnost are considered to be the third strongest team.
Double digit odds are on offer for Larvik, FTC, Midtjylland and Metz respectively to win the competition. FTC could be the first Budapest-based team to reach the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 and if they do, they will be able to rely on a home advantage thanks to their huge fan base.
Here is how the teams continue the road to Budapest:
• FC Midtjylland (B4) vs HC Vardar (A1)
• Metz Handball (A4) vs Györi Audi ETO KC (B1)
• CSM Bucuresti (B3) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (A2)
• Buducnost (A3) vs Larvik (B2)