Countdown: How the teams are building to the DELO EHF FINAL4
We checked in on the four teams that will take the court in Budapest in three weeks’ time only 12 days ago, but handball has not stopped and a significant change has taken place for one of the big favourites for the trophy.
With only 20 days to go before the throw off at the DELO EHF FINAL4, we take another sneak peek at how teams are measuring up prior to the most important weekend of European handball this season.
Winds of change at Györ
A season-altering 31:22 loss against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria in the Hungarian league derby last Wednesday meant that Györi Audi ETO KC are no longer in the top position in their league. FTC own the tie breaker between the two sides and will go on to win the title if they secure four wins in the last four games — which would be only the third interruption in Györ’s dominance over the last 15 seasons.
The situation meant that Györ needed to take action and replaced coach Gabor Danyi, who was already set to move to Siófok KC next season. The club legend Anita Görbicz — the first player who scored over 1,000 goals in the DELO EHF Champions League was tasked to lead the team in the Hungarian league match last weekend. However, on Monday, Györ announced that Ambros Martin takes over the team and will steer it to Budapest. The Spanish ace, who won the DELO EHF Champions League four times with the Hungarian powerhouse, was slated to join Györ this summer, yet he agreed to make the comeback earlier.
Make or break for Brest
These are big weeks for Brest Bretagne Handball, who can see their season as make or break. It will all come down to how they perform between 19 and 30 May, as they are already qualified for the final of the French league against Metz Handball.
One question regarding the final is the home right, to be decided based on the play-offs ranking. Brest only lost twice this season and can win the round-robin play-offs provided they take a victory against the winners of the EHF Finals Women, Nantes Atlantique Handball, on Wednesday.
The final of the French league will be a double header between Brest and Metz, taking place on 19 and 23 May, just one week before the DELO EHF FINAL4. Laurent Bezeau’s side have won four times against their rivals and drawn once in five games in 2021.
It could be Brest’s second-ever win in the French league, after the team from Bretagne welcomed returning Polish right back Monika Kobylinska for the win against Bourg des Peages on 4 May following a seven-month absence.
Back in action after a month
After a month-long break from handball due to the current health measures in Norway, Vipers Kristiansand are back in business this week. With the final of the Norwegian league against Storhamar looming on Wednesday and the Norwegian Cup final on Saturday, Vipers will shake off the rust before the DELO EHF FINAL4 in Budapest.
The Norwegian side enjoyed a superb knockout phase in the premium European competition, eliminating Odense and Rostov-Don. They look set to have a clean bill of health, with both Nora Mørk and Heidi Løke in shape for the attempt to secure Vipers’ first-ever final berth in the DELO EHF Champions League.
CSKA survive scare to progress to the Russian league final
After a 26:26 draw in the first leg of the Russian League semi-finals against HC Lada, CSKA needed a strong push in the second game to overcome their opponents. On Monday afternoon, the only Russian side qualified for the DELO EHF FINAL4 won the second leg 29:28 after stopping Lada, who made the EHF European League Women quarter-finals this season, in the last attack of the game.
It was not exactly the best preparation for the Russian side coming into their first-ever DELO EHF FINAL4, but CSKA centre back Ekaterina Ilina scored 10 goals in the two games against Lada to help her side progress to the final, where they can face rivals Rostov-Don. CSKA lost all their six mutual games against Rostov since taking part in the Russian league.