With only two days remaining before the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 throws off, ehfFINAL4.com asked what our senior European correspondents think of the four teams’ chances of winning the Women’s EHF Champions League.
Scandinavian journalist Peter Bruun provided an opening statement then ‘passed the ball’ to Nemanja Savic for a reaction, and so on and so on. The result is a thread of opinions that could hardly be more different from each other.
Peter Bruun, Frederikshavn:
Györ will win it this year. The signing of Nora Mørk has strengthened them decisively on the right back, which – with all respect to Linn Jorum Sulland – was their weakest position last year.
Furthermore, the way I see it, they have the deepest squad of the four participants. Last year, they had to integrate several new players during the season. This year, they have only had to integrate Mørk, and that has not been a problem at all.
Vardar might be a contender with Alexandra Lacrabere as playmaker. She adds a new dimension to Vardar’s attack, and she makes Andrea Penezic better. However, she will probably not be playing the playmaker position once Andrea Lekic is back at full strength.
Ruling champions CSM do not have the advantage of the surprise any more. The other teams know them by now and have been warned. Furthermore, CSM do not have the tactical genius Kim Rasmussen as coach anymore.
Regarding Buducnost, I agree with Cristina Neagu, as she recently told me: “We are only number four among those four participants!” The Montenegrin powerhouse have been too inconsistent this season to really make me believe in their chances.
Nemanja Savic, Belgrade:
I've said it before, and I repeat – never underestimate Buducnost. The Montenegrin champions are no strangers to the understatement, as much as they are no strangers to rising to the occasion.
However, last year, outsiders CSM taught us to drop the old-fashioned logic and expect the unexpected. But what makes a team achieve the unexpected? Where do they get that extra incentive?
If anything, Dragan Adzic has taught this team to channel emotion into inspired performances – I firmly believe the last hurrah of Buducnost's golden generation will be the igniting spark for Katarina Bulatovic, Neagu, Dragana Cvijic and co. to perform above all expectations and complete their legacy.
Adrian Costeiu, Bucharest:
CSM are still the title holders, and the sheer amount of experience and grit this team have is one of the most important advantages one could get at the business end of such an important competition.
There is no Kim Rasmussen with the team, but CSM's ‘no risk, no reward’ policy has worked wonders yet again, as Per Johansson rejuvenated the Romanian side.
Sure enough, CSM will not take Budapest by storm like they did last May and this will play into the narrative, with all teams having their chance to win the title. Their opponents will know that Isabelle Gullden is CSM’s biggest strength, but the Romanian side’s defence is better and Paula Ungureanu is starting to hit her peak form at the right time.
Bence Martha, Budapest:
There were three important aspects of CSM's victory last year, of which only one will be at Johansson's disposal in 2017. Bella Gullden, who may not be the world's best player as some argue but without a doubt the most intelligent, is a weapon of mass destruction and Johansson will not hesitate to unleash the beast. But the other two factors, on which CSM relied heavily in 2016, will not be present.
First of all, Kim Rasmussen is not only absent from the title holders but as Hungarian national team coach and professional advisor to the Hungarian federation, he is going to work against his former side – and may God have mercy on those the Danish mastermind works against!
Furthermore, the element of surprise, the fact that CSM could play free of pressure as underdogs, will by no means help the defending champion anymore. Is it finally Vardar’s year? I believe so.
Amina Idrizi, Skopje:
You mention Vardar, Bence, and I believe that the first association for this team is the four coach changes this season. Were these really necessary? Probably not…
Maybe this is the reason this team showed two different faces throughout the season. In several matches they demonstrated superiority, and then suddenly you see a completely different team on the court.
But beside the vulnerable performance, I do believe that Vardar have the strength to go a step further this year – though only if the players manage to overcome the ‘ego’ problem and try to function as a team, helping each other on the court.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / Nemanja Savic / Bence Martha/ Adrian Costeiu / Amina Idrizi / cg