Former champions face for a ticket to Budapest
Norway and Montenegro imprinted the European women’s handball in the previous years – either on national team level or on the club stage. Now the two powerhouses of both countries – Buducnost and Larvik – face in the quarter-final.
• In 2015, this pairing was the EHF Champions League final.
• Buducnost had qualified for all EHF FINAL4 tournaments in Budapest so far.
• Both sides had won this competition, Larvik once, Buducnost twice.
• Three of the four best scorers, who are still in the competition, want to continue their goal-series.
Quarter-final: Buducnost (MNE) vs Larvik (NOR)
Sunday 9 April, 19:00 hrs local time, live on ehfTV.com
In 2015, they faced each other in the final at Budapest, in 2017 only one of those former EHF Champions League winners will make it to the TIPPMIX FINAL4 again.
Which of the outgoing stars of both sides will be part of the pinnacle event? This is one of the most important questions: Larvik’s Norwegian EURO and world champions Amanda Kurtovic and Marit Malm Frafjord will join Bucaresti after this season as will the reigning 'World Handball Player of the Year' Cristina Neagu. Goalkeeper Sandra Toft will leave to Esbjerg and Serbian World Championship silver medallist Dragana Cvijic will depart from the Montenegrin powerhouse to Vardar.
Two years ago, Buducnost took their second Champions League trophy by a 26:22 in the final at Budapest against Larvik – and the team of Dragan Adzic hope to continue their series of success, as they (and Vardar) are the only teams, which had been part of all three FINAL4 events in the Hungarian capital so far.
Larvik, EHF Champions League winners in 2011, had made it to Budapest only once in 2015, but had been finalist in the last season prior to the implementation of the FINAL4 in 2013 (losing against Györ).
Larvik had been part of so far six Champions League semi-finals, while no team had made it more often to this stage of the competition than Buducnost: ten times so far. In 2011 and 2012, the pairing of those powerhouses even had been the setting in the semis, both times won by Podgorica.
Besides, a huge number of those players face with the Norwegian and Montenegrin national teams in major encounters like the 2012 Olympic final (won by the Scandinavians) and the 2012 EHF EURO final (won by Montenegro).
The current main round was something like a roller-coaster ride for Buducnost, as their fortress Moraca Arena had been conquered twice in a row, by Vardar and FTC. But by winning the away re-matches, Podgorica turned the tide and is ready to rumble, though they "only" finished on the third rank in their group.
Larvik had a shaky start in the group matches, including two defeats against Krim. But in the main round the Norwegian record champions clearly improved: The only defeat occurred in Györ, besides Larvik beat the defending champions Bucuresti at home and tied twice at Györ and Bucuresti to finish on the second position.
Larvik were mailny boosted by the goals of Amanda Kurtovic, who was awarded EHF Player of the Month in January thanks to her Champions League performances. By 74 goals (like Vardar’s left back Andrea Penezic), left handed Kurtovic currently is the best scorer of the Champions League, who still is in the competition – but only two goals ahead of her teammate Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth (72), who has exactly scored the same number of goals as Buducnost’s best striker Katarina Bulatovic, who will also leave her club after this season. Bulatovic currently is the most successful player in the competition in terms of Champions League trophies (4).