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EHF Champions League

The ambitions behind a great comeback

EHF / Adrian Costeiu

Györi Audi ETO KC’s success in the DELO EHF Champions League has been synonymous with coach Ambros Martin. The Spanish ace built the team that enabled the Hungarian powerhouse to break their curse of lost European finals and led his side to four of their five wins in the European top flight.

Martin left in 2018 to try his luck in pastures new, namely Rostov-Don but his contract with the Russian side was mutually rescinded in July 2020.

Martin was always a legend and had a door open in Györ, so and it was no surprise when the team announced he will be replacing Gabor Danyi this summer.

What nobody expected was, however, for the move to be accelerated. Danyi’s contract was terminated after a painful 31:22 defeat in the domestic league against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria, which virtually sent the title to Budapest.

It was a tough decision, but Györ had to act fast and with Martin free to come back, the move was always logical.

“There is not much time to change a lot, especially because they did a really good job in the last years, there is not much to change and it is working. We will try to be more consistent in these two games, both in defence and in attack.

“We try to give the players the confidence to show how good they are on the court,” said Martin, looking forward to Saturday’s throw-off of the DELO EHF FINAL4, where Györ will be pitted against Brest Bretagne Handball.

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Two draws against Brest are not enough

It is not the easiest opponent for Györ, but it is also a team the Hungarian side never lost against. Martin’s current side won four times and drew another three games, two in this season, 25:25 and 27:27, in the group phase.

“We did not win this season against them, so I think these two teams are very similar. I think that in this type of competition, in the DELO EHF FINAL4, what happened before is not so important.

“These are the same teams, the same players, but the environment is totally different. Somehow, we must find that extra ounce of energy to beat them and progress to the final.”

“Brest are a team who have been playing together for a long time, especially the main players, like Isabelle Gullden, Ana Gros, the line players and their wings. They are not here by chance, they had a very good season,” added Martin.

Their hunger was probably exacerbated by their astonishing comeback last weekend, in the French domestic league final.

Brest lost the first game against Metz Handball, 31:24, only to mount an otherworldly comeback and seal their second title, 29:22.

”Losing by seven against Metz could have impacted their morale, but they came back and this means they fight until the last moment. This game gave them confidence for this weekend. Alas, they will be very motivated, because some of the players will leave after the end of this season,” concluded Martin.

The DELO EHF Champions League's top goalscorer, Slovenian right back Ana Gros, is one of them, influential playmaker Isabelle Gullden coming a close second on that list.

Gullden has been Györ's kryptonite in the past, after scoring 15 goals for CSM Bucuresti in the only final at the DELO EHF FINAL4 in Budapest that the Hungarian team lost, in the 2015/16 season.

Her experience will be key but Brest’s core will experience the business end of the competition for the first time, with two crucial games in the space of 24 hours.

“I do not think being here the first time will affect their play, because they have the experience and played plenty of times in the DELO EHF Champions League. This is not a handicap for them, their players are used to feature in key games, both at club level and also in the national teams, so their roles in the national teams have the experience.

“Maybe not here, but players like Sandra Toft and Djurdjina Jaukovic have played before in such games. They will not be at a disadvantage, rather they will enjoy this tournament,” added Martin.

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Györ count on their lucky charm

Now 53, Martin has been to the DELO EHF FINAL4 in Budapest six times, winning four titles. But the lingering feeling is that this is the toughest one yet - something the Spanish coach denies.

“All of the EHF FINAL4 tournaments have been tough for me. I would not say that this is the toughest one yet. I have the experience, we know first-hand what needs to be done, but, in the end, there is only one winner.

“We need to beat two teams in 24 hours, yet I do not think about how difficult it will be, I only focus on trying to set up the team to play well and be focused,” said Martin.

But, for once, Martin acknowledges his team might have an advantage. With the DELO EHF FINAL4 set to have 50 per cent of the arena’s capacity filled with fans, Györ consider themselves lucky.

“This is peak handball, really. To play for the fans after such a difficult and strange season, it makes our drive even bigger. It is good to know that fans will be back, they will also support us, as they always do, it will bring extra motivation for our team, but also extra responsibility to know that many fans will be there expecting us to win,” concluded the four-time champion.

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