QUARTER-FINAL PREVIEW: New coach Per Johansson aims to emulate CSM’s success last season, as the Romanian side prepare to face newly crowned Hungarian Cup champions FTC on the hunt for their second FINAL4 berth.
A new challenge for CSM
Current title holders CSM Bucuresti were in less-than-perfect form during both the Women’s EHF Champions League Group Phase and main round, but found a new solution to their problem, replacing Aurelian Rosca only seven days before the first leg of the quarter-final against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria with former Sweden national team coach Per Johansson.
On the other hand, their opponents from Hungary are in great form and have a strong chance to qualify for their maiden FINAL4 in Budapest, after snatching the Hungarian Cup against their biggest rivals on Sunday.
• The Romanian side have only once beat a Hungarian team in the Women’s EHF Champions League, losing four times against Györ before defeating the Hungarian powerhouse in last season’s final after a penalty shoot-out.
• FTC-Cargo Rail Hungaria will be buoyed by winning the Hungarian Cup, securing the title with a shoot-out against Györ last Sunday.
• Per Johansson will make his debut as coach of CSM nearly five years after his previous stint as a coach, leading the Sweden women’s team at the 2012 Olympic Games.
QUARTER-FINAL, FIRST LEG
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN)
Friday 7 April, 20:00 local time, live on ehfTV
Only seven days before the first game against FTC-Cargo Rail Hungaria, CSM Bucuresti took an unexpected step by replacing coach Aurelian Rosca with Per Johansson.
“It is a big ask, it is thrilling, but I would not say it’s the toughest challenge in my career,” said Johansson.
The Hungarians will therefore walk into the unknown, as all their previous plans to stop their counterparts must be scratched.
“This will be only one of the surprises we have prepared for our opponents. You must take a calculated risk in order to achieve greatness,” said CSM President Bogdan Vasiliu.
Emulating last season’s success
The Romanian side have been one of the main underachievers of the season, as the title holders were fighting for their lives as early as the group phase – though they recorded an excellent win against Rostov when it mattered the most.
But the main round was another letdown. While CSM lost only one game, against Larvik,
the Romanian side could not climb higher than third place, and as a result will play the crucial second-leg quarter-final away in Budapest.
“Personally, I like to play the first game of a two-legged tie at home. I know it is a difficult task for us, but we are the title holders, so we have to defend our title and this can bring extra motivation,” said CSM’s Isabelle Gullden, with line player Oana Manea adding:
“I have seen positive things in the last days, both in the spirit of the team and tactically. We know this game is important and it seems we clicked on at the proper time. This also happened last season and I find a lot of similarities between what happened then and what is happening now.”
The main objective
The Hungarian side will be one of the toughest opponents CSM has encountered this season – and it looks like they are also peaking at the right time.
Coach Gabor Elek’s side won the Hungarian Cup on Sunday, after a thrilling final against their huge rivals, Györ.
FTC-Rail Cargo claimed the trophy with a 34:32 win, but it came down to a penalty shoot-out to break the 29:29 stalemate.
“It is a great win, but in my head there is only one thing: The game against CSM Bucuresti,” said Elek. “I need to find a way to keep the players motivated for Friday. This is the most important thing and our main objective.”
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cg