Summary: Nantes win first international title; De Paula named MVP
Nantes Atlantique Handball made history at the first EHF Finals Women, as they defeated Siófok in the final on Sunday after winning their semi-final against Baia Mare on Saturday. CS Minaur Baia Mare recovered from their semi-final loss to defeat Herning-Ikast and claim third place, before Nantes Atlantique enjoyed a dominant performance in the final on the way to their first European title.
- Nantes Atlantique won the trophy and their first international title with a 36:31 result in the final vs Siófok
- Baia Mare clinched third with a 33:31 win over Herning-Ikast in the placement match
- on Saturday in the semi-finals, Siófok defeated Herning-Ikast 36:34 after extra time and Nantes reached their debut European cup final after beating Baia Mare 36:34
- Nantes back Bruna De Paula was named MVP of the EHF Finals Women
- Herning-Ikast's Helene Gigstad Fauske finished as top scorer of the season, with 61 goals
That brings us to the end of our live blog coverage of the EHF Finals Women!
We leave you with the highlights of the final, Siófok vs Nantes.
Some of you may have known her before, while for others EHF Finals Women MVP Bruna De Paula has become a household name this weekend. Get to know the Brazilian back, who was so critical to Nantes' history-making performance this season, in our special feature below.
What we achieved is amazing and I believed from the start in our team. When the mood is good outside the court, things work also on the court. I was never afraid about this challenge because I know what we can do. I am proud and happy and I am at a loss for words.
I did not think about winning the trophy when we started in the qualification phase 3. It was just a dream for us to live these kind of moments. I thought that this would be a superb season for us, but I did not expect to go all the way. It is even better this way.
Here we have the special moment Nantes received their trophy!
What a match, what a weekend, and what a season for Nantes Atlantique! Our journalist Adrian Costeiu takes you through the final in the review below, which also features plenty of tidbits about the special history for Nantes and their great season in the inaugural EHF European League Women.
I feel happy and joyful after this win. I have said it already yesterday [after the win against Baia Mare]: to have a great game, you need two teams, and this was exactly what happened on the court. This was a really good team. I think Siófok spent a lot of energy yesterday in the extra time [against Herning-Ikast]. We were all in front of the TV and watched it.
We managed to play good handball, with a great player [Bruna De Paula] who is standing next to me, and we did it as a team. This is our strength since the beginning of the season. We were together since 2 July, we had many games in a row, the girls never gave up and always smiled when they took the court. I am a lucky man to be able to coach this team.
I am very proud of my team — how they played yesterday against Herning-Ikast and today because the last two months have been very difficult. We had plenty of injuries and Covid-19 positive cases. I know how hard the game was yesterday and we paid the price today. We lost a little bit of power, a little bit of focus, but we have to congratulate Nantes — they were really the best team in this tournament. They took the lead early — five, six goals. We tried to mount a comeback, but we did not have the power to complete it. Now we are second and I say it again: I am very proud of my team.
De Paula secured the MVP award but did not pass Fauske on the overall top scorer standings for the season, leaving the prize for the Norwegian back, who scored 61 goals for Herning-Ikast this season.
Nantes wing Nathalie Hagman finishes the weekend with 18 goals to be top scorer of the EHF Finals Women.
After scoring 14 goals over the weekend and playing an important role as the motor of Nantes Atlantique's attack, Bruna De Paula has scooped the MVP of the EHF Finals Women!
Not only have Nantes made history for their club, but for all of French handball, as they become the first team to win the second-tier European competition. And their celebration was worthy of the historic moment...
FINAL RESULT: SIÓFOK VS NANTES ATLANTIQUE 31:36
Final whistle in Baia Mare and Nantes celebrate their first ever European title after a dominant performance in the final.
Six minutes on the clock and Siófok have reduced the distance a touch, with Nantes now leading 33:28. Although the Hungarian team have decreased the distance, Nantes still have the momentum — but could the tide be turning?
A timeout is called at the 49-minute mark, with Nantes still clear in front at 32:25.
At this point, it is clear Nathalie Hagman will finish the weekend as the top scorer of the EHF Finals Women, as she currently counts 18 goals across the two games played so far — and the final is not yet over!
Siófok are still hunting for any way to pull off a comeback, but they have had no success so far even when trying a much more offensive defence — Nantes found the gaps in it and continued punishing their rivals' goal.
Below, check out one of the French team's top goals of this half.
10 minutes into the second half, the situation only looks worse for Siófok and better for Nantes. The French team are now even more firmly in command, at 27:20.
Nathalie Hagman has reached six goals and is the top scorer of the match so far. In the overall season top scorer race, De Paula has netted three goals and remains four behind the current leader Helene Gigstad Fauske.
The final resumes as the second half gets underway. Will we see a big comeback from Siófok? Or will Nantes hold on and make it a fairytale season with their first ever European title?
It's time to hear from our journalist Adrian Costeiu with his half-time thoughts:
This EHF Finals Women has been epitomised by superb attacking performances in the first three games, but Nantes Atlantique Handball might have changed that exactly when it mattered the most. The French side are only 30 minutes away from securing their first-ever European title and they got this close especially thanks to their defence, taking a commanding 17:13 lead after the first half.
Nantes conceded only five goals in the first 15 minutes against a potent Siófok attack and it was not about their goalkeepers saving shots — rather a typical strong French defence. Once again, in attack, Nantes relied on back Bruna de Paula and right wing Nathalie Hagman, who combined for six goals, with the dazzling Brazilian scoring and dishing assists like a machine.
Well, we still have 30 minutes to go and Siófok are not out if it. Their experience might be crucial, as they have already mounted a comeback in the semi-final against Herning-Ikast Handbold on Saturday, turning the game on its head after the Danish powerhouse led by four goals. They just need to be more careful and precise in attack, where their top scorer, Tamara Horacek failed to score a goal today. But bear in mind that Nantes might have the upper hand, because Siófok won against their Danish counterparts after extra time.
A fun fact: Siófok coach Zdravko Zovko called two timeouts in the first half against Herning-Ikast yesterday. And his team won. Guess how many timeouts Zovko took in this game against Nantes? Well, two! Let’s see if the past repeats itself.
HALF-TIME UPDATE: SIÓFOK VS NANTES 13:17
Nantes are clearly in command at half-time in the final and completely dominated the first 30 minutes against Siófok. But a lot can happen in a half and Siófok are still well within range for a comeback.
Siófok are in an increasingly dangerous position, as Nantes extend their lead to five goals, 17:12, thanks to a strike from Orlane Ahanda with three minutes left before half-time. Below, see one of her earlier goals — and what a goal it is!
Six minutes remain on the clock before the break and Siófok have still not managed to put a dent in the score line — despite moments like the one from Melinda Szikora below, Nantes lead 14:10.
In their goal, Nantes have changed from Adriana Placzek to Floriane Andre after Placzek recorded one save through the opening.
As we hit the 20-minute mark, Nantes are staying confidently in front at 11:8. But Siófok are hot on their heels and it is clear the distance is far from safe even for Nantes to keep the advantage at the break.
As the opening quarter of the final comes to an end, Nantes have established a more dominant lead, 9:5, leaving Siófok with quite a deficit to fight back from.
For the Hungarian side, their French centre back Gnonsiane Niombla is really stepping up as leader, contributing half of Siófok's goals so far.
10 minutes played and Nantes have the edge as Nathalie Hagman nets a penalty to put the score at 6:4 for the French side.
Three minutes into the final, Siófok lead 2:1, with both the Hungarian side's goals coming from the wings.
Here is a sneak peak at the medals the winners of the final will receive as their individual prize along with the trophy itself.
FINAL THROWS OFF
Throw off in the inaugural EHF European League Women final is only a few minutes away now! Who will clinch this memorable title in the competition's first season?
Join us live on EHFTV.com now.
Checking in on the top scorer race, Herning-Ikast back Helene Gigstad Fauske now counts 61 goals in her tally. Since the start of the group phase, her nearest rival, Nantes back Bruna De Paula, has notched up 54 goals.
De Paula netted eight goals in yesterday's semi-final, and as similar performance in the trophy game will see her snatch the individual crown from Fauske.
While we wait for the final to begin, enjoy the highlights of the 3/4 placement match below!
Time to take a closer look at the final! Here are some key facts about the upcoming match, Siófok vs Nantes Atlantique.
Siófok are riding the second longest unbeaten run in European handball: 17 games in a row — behind only fellow Hungarian side Györi Audi ETO KC, who have not lost in the last 55 games in the DELO EHF Champions League. Nantes were the last team to beat Siófok in European handball, taking a 34:29 win on the Hungarian side’s court in November 2019.
The French side have reached their first European final in history, only eight years after being promoted in the domestic league.
Both teams scored a season-high 36 goals in the semi-finals to proceed to the last act of the EHF Finals Women, but Siófok needed extra time to reach that number. Three of Siófok’s top four goal scorers in the semi-final against Herning-Ikast — backs Tamara Horacek and Gnonsiane Niombla and left wing Camille Aoustin — are French, but only Aoustin played one season for Nantes, between 2014 and 2015.
The only team to defend their title in the former second-tier club competition, the EHF Cup, was also a Hungarian side, Debrecen, in the 1994/95 and 1995/96 seasons. No French team ever won the Women’s EHF Cup.
Siófok won both games played against French opposition this season — 35:24 and 29:28 versus Fleury in the group phase. The finalists have met twice in European competitions, sharing wins in qualification phase 3 of the EHF Cup 2018/19, with Siófok progressing to the group phase after a 61:58 aggregate win.
Less than one hour to go until the final throws off! There's still time for you to weigh in with our poll on who will win the trophy. Currently, it looks like you are favouring Siófok, as they count 63.6 per cent of the votes in their favour.
Have your say below!
As we near the last hour before the final, let's take one last look at the 3/4 placement match — in particular, how it ended, with this celebration from the EHF Finals Women hosts.
Below, see the critical moment Baia Mare took the upper hand for the first time since the opening minutes of the 3/4 placement match.
How did Baia Mare turn the match versus Herning-Ikast around and claim third place? Journalist Adrian Costeiu takes you through it in the match review below.
We are so proud today to secure this win. Yesterday we were so disappointed in ourselves, so today we were so focused on our play to snatch this win. I am a little bit sorry because I have not experienced the arena with fans — I never experienced that this season.
FULL-TIME 3/4 PLACEMENT MATCH: HERNING-IKAST VS BAIA MARE 31:33
What a relief for Baia Mare; what a disappointment for Herning-Ikast. The Romanian side struggled to draw level through the entire match but grabbed the lead when it counted and held on. They secure third position, while Herning-Ikast place fourth.
With less than three minutes to go, Baia Mare are holding steady in front, 32:30. Are they on their way to the win or can Herning-Ikast score the goals needed?
A great comeback has seen Baia Mare claim the upper hand at a critical point in the match. After Baia Mare closed in early in the half, Herning-Ikast reopened a more commanding advantage, only to have it snatched from them as the clock wore on.
Baia Mare took the lead for the first time since the opening two minutes of the match in the 53rd, 29:28, and keep a one-goal distance, 30:29, as we enter the last five minutes.
Below, see how the tables started to turn.
After 10 minutes of play in the second period, Baia Mare have made their way to more level footing with Herning-Ikast, sitting just one goal behind at 22:21.
It looks like this 3/4 placement match is heading for an exciting ending!
The second half throws off with hosts Baia Mare facing a big task. Not only do they need to fight back from behind, but they must change the momentum of the game completely as Herning-Ikast have been steadily in control so far.
Below, enjoy a great double save from Baia Mare keeper Filippa Idehn.
After a strong first half from Herning-Ikast, the question is now whether Baia Mare will find the answers to turn the tables. Weighing in with his thoughts on the encounter, our journalist Adrian Costeiu:
Missing key right back Jelena Lavko due to injury, CS Minaur Baia Mare simply do not have the firepower to engage in a high-octane shootout against any opponent. And that has been apparent against a Herning-Ikast side firing from all cylinders, ready to erase the impression from Saturday’s loss against Siófok KC in the semi-final.
Herning-Ikast stayed true to their fast play, especially turning up the afterburners following concession of a goal, and scored eight goals in the first nine minutes. Baia Mare’s defence had little answer for the Danish side’s powerful shots from the back line, but also for line player Vilde Johansen, who scored four times.
While centre back Cristina Laslo might have underlined the need for better defence after conceding 36 goals against Nantes in the semi-final, Baia Mare did not look ready to put in the effort, with Herning-Ikast comfortably enjoying a 19:16 lead at the break.
What needs to be changed in Baia Mare’s game? Much, especially in defence and, maybe, more focus between the posts. In attack, Baia Mare got a bit of push from Jovana Kovacevic. The Serbian back, Baia Mare’s top scorer in the competition, had only two goals from 13 shots on Saturday, but she has improved a bit today, scoring four goals from six shots. It certainly looks like the hosts will finish the EHF Finals Women with two losses in two days.
HALF-TIME UPDATE: HERNING-IKAST VS BAIA MARE 19:16
Are Herning-Ikast on their way to their first win at the EHF Finals Women? The Danish team do not have a decisive lead but they have had the advantage through the entire opening half.
Five minutes remain in the opening half and the advantage is still well and truly with Herning-Ikast, at 17:13. The Danish side are outshining their opponents with a higher attacking and shooting efficiency, both at 81 per cent above Baia Mare's 65 per cent.
Baia Mare are not allowing Herning-Ikast to increase the gap, but the EHF Finals hosts are also not able to close it so far. As the game hits 15 minutes on the clock, the Danish side reopen a three-goal distance, 11:8.
Below, enjoy one of Herning-Ikast's top goals so far, courtesy of Ingvild Bakkerud.
After 10 minutes played, Herning-Ikast are taking charge at 8:6.
The Danish side's line player Vilde Johansen has already notched up four goals from as many attempts, highlighting problems in Baia Mare's defence. In goal, we are seeing a battle between Sweden national team keepers, with Jessica Ryde having outsaved Filippa Idehn so far.
3/4 PLACEMENT MATCH THROWS OFF
The 3/4 placement match is now live! If you cannot watch Herning-Ikast vs Baia Mare, follow the score and stats on the live ticker.
We want to put up a fight tomorrow [Sunday]. It is not nearly enough for us to be there. We are disappointed, but it is not the end for us.
Time to examine some of the key facts surrounding the placement match between Herning-Ikast and Baia Mare.
Both of the sides conceded only two losses this season — one apiece in the group phase and one each in the semi-finals.
Herning-Ikast are still the team with the most effective attack in the competition, with a total of 291 goals after scoring 34 times against Siófok in the semi-final.
Helene Gigstad Fauske enters the game as the top scorer of the EHF European League Women 2020/21, with 56 goals starting from the group phase — but she is only two ahead of Nantes back Bruna De Paula considering the same period of the competition. Today's matches will therefore see this individual crown decided as well as the final positions of the teams.
Herning-Ikast and Baia Mare have arrived for the placement match and warm-up is well underway.
We have also learned that Cristina Laslo and Karoline De Souza arrive at their matches by bike, and we are glad to see Jelena Lavko looking excited for the day despite her injury.
The 3/4 placement match, Herning-Ikast vs Baia Mare, is less than one hour away!
It will be the first official match between these clubs since 2007, in the qualification phase of the EHF Cup — but of course the lineups have changed dramatically since then.
As is so often the way, there are some other facts that make today’s final even more special. Journalist Adrian Costeiu delves a little deeper into Siófok vs Nantes:
What about this final? Well, this is by no means a traditional face-off between two European powerhouses, as Siófok KC have only five European seasons under their belt, while Nantes Atlantique Handball played in European competitions for just four seasons.
But their paths have been quite intertwined. You may remember that Siófok have not lost in the past 17 games in European competitions, as they won the Women’s EHF Cup two seasons ago. Can you guess the last team to beat them?
Yes, you are right, it was Nantes! The French side defeated Siófok in the Women’s EHF Cup 2019/20 qualification phase, 34:29 in Hungary, but failed to progress to the group phase, after Siófok won the first leg 32:24. Sure, there are changes in the two sides, but make no mistake, their cores are intact. Who is going to win this time?
We want to hear from you! Who do you think will win the first EHF European League Women trophy? Have your say below.
What can we expect today — the final day of the first EHF European League Women season? Our journalist Adrian Costeiu is here with your first rundown for the day:
The first-ever EHF Finals Women are concluding this evening, but what a blast this weekend has already been. We had 140 goals scored in the two games played on Saturday, with 70 each in both games. Should we expect more of the same on Sunday?
While Siófok KC and Nantes Atlantique Handball are not the two most efficient attacks in the competition, they can really turn it up when needed and each of the two finalists have the speed and the experience needed to put every defence in the competition under pressure.
Keep an eye on Brazilian back Bruna de Paula, who scored 62 goals in 10 games this season, including the qualification phase, but also on fellow back Deborah Kpodar, who put 44 goals past Nantes’ opponents during this season.
What about Siófok? Well, another French back, Tamara Horacek, leads the way, with 46 goals, but Croatian line player Katarina Jezic is close, with 42. All in all, we will definitely have some fun when the big afternoon in Baia Mare starts at 14:45 CEST, as hosts CS Minaur Baia Mare face Herning-Ikast Handbold in the 3/4 placement match.
Good morning and welcome to another exciting day at the EHF Finals Women! To get you started today, find the preview of the finals below.
A reminder of today's schedule:
- 14:45 CEST 3/4 placement match: Herning-Ikast Håndbold vs CS Minaur Baia Mare
- 18:00 CEST final: Siófok KC vs Nantes Atlantique Handball
That brings us to the end of our live blog coverage on day one of the EHF Finals Women! Be sure to join us tomorrow on the decisive day when the first EHF European League Women title will be decided.
Here is the schedule for Sunday's matches:
- 14:45 CEST 3/4 placement match: Herning-Ikast vs CS Minau Baia Mare
- 18:00 CEST final: Siófok KC vs Nantes Atlantique Handball
What a day of semi-finals it was! Two very different yet thrilling matches to determine who will play for the trophy tomorrow and we cannot wait to see what the teams deliver next.
Missed the second semi-final? We've got you covered. Check out the highlights below!
Below, enjoy an understandably enthusiastic celebration from Siófok following their epic semi-final win. The team are through to the final of Europe's second-tier club competition for the second consecutive season (albeit with a gap due to the competition's cancellation in 2020 as a result of Covid-19) and have the chance to defend the title won in 2018/19.
We are still recovering from that thrilling semi-final between Siófok and Herning-Ikast! Journalist Adrian Costeiu guides you through how the match was won in the review below.
We did everything that was needed in such an important game, a semi-final, but in the last minutes they were better than us. They had more experience and that was on display when it was needed.
Words cannot describe how proud I am. There was no other chance for us than to reach the final and I saw how hard we worked and trained. I believed from the first minute that we could qualify. I do not know if there was the experience or making less mistakes, but I think the best team won today.”
END SECOND EXTRA TIME PERIOD: SIÓFOK VS HERNING-IKAST 36:34
We have a winner! Siófok outscore Herning-Ikast in the second extra time period to clinch a two-goal win — with exactly the same final score as the opening semi-final.
Below, check out how Helene Gigstad Fauske kept Herning-Ikast level at the end of the first period of extra time.
It looks like it was not enough, however, as Siófok have the lead 36:34 inside the last minute of the second extra time period.
END FIRST EXTRA TIME PERIOD: SIÓFOK VS HERNING-IKAST 33:33
As the first five minutes of extra time come to an end, neither side has managed to create an edge, and the score remains locked.
Three minutes into the first extra time period, Siófok have the edge at 33:32.
Here, see the goal that equalised the game for the Hungarian team.
Katarina Jezic has been a key player for Siófok today, building on the superb reputation she holds since leading Croatia as captain to their historic EHF EURO bronze medal last December. Ahead of the semi-finals, Jezic said the EURO experience taught her that with team spirit anything is possible. Will Siófok be able to find the magic ingredient now?
Check out a top goal from Jezic below.
END OF REGULAR TIME: SIÓFOK VS HERNING-IKAST 31:31
After Herning-Ikast pulled in front by one with less than 30 seconds on the clock, Siófok levelled with a penalty to send the match into extra time!
The teams will now play 10 minutes extra, spit into two periods of five minutes.
Journalist Adrian Costeiu weighs in with his thoughts at this point in the game:
Well, well, this is unexpected! There were ups and downs, it was a rollercoaster ride, but after 60 minutes, both teams scored 31 goals, therefore, we will have extra time.
How much do they still have in the tank? Herning-Ikast might have the younger players — an age average of 23 years old, as opposed to Siófok’s 25.8 average — but the Hungarian side definitely have the advantage in experience.
A crazy, crazy game, with Gabriella Toth tying the score off a buzzer-beater penalty, after Siófok took out the goalkeeper to attack with seven players in the last 20 seconds.
Just under three minutes remain and the match is on the edge, with the score level at 30:30. We are heading for a nail-biting finish in this second semi-final!
With the goals coming in fast as Herning-Ikast in particular play a very quick counter game, it's a tough day in goal — but the keepers are still having their moments. Here, check out a great double save from Siófok's Melinda Szikora.
At the 50-minute mark, the score is level at 27:27.
As we enter the final 15 minutes of the match, Herning-Ikast are narrowly in front at 26:25. Ingvild Bakkerud is leading the scoring race with seven goals, but several players across both teams have notched up five.
This is the definition of a rollercoaster encounter, with Siófok temporarily opening a two-goal gap before Herning-Ikast turned the tables. With 10 minutes played in the second half, it's 23:22 for the Danish side.
And here we have the goal that took Siófok in front, courtesy of Danish wing Simone Böhme. Over two minutes into the second half, we have yet to see a goal as the Hungarian side keep their 19:18 lead.
As the second half gets underway with Siófok in front, take a look at one moment that helped them take the upper hand late in the first half — a superb save from Melinda Szikora.
What a match we have enjoyed so far in the second semi-final! Our journalist Adrian Costeiu shares his thoughts on the first half:
For the first 16 minutes of the game, Herning-Ikast looked unstoppable in attack, converting their first 13 shots. Riding a 4:0 unanswered run between the fifth and ninth minute, the Danish powerhouse took a commanding 8:5 lead, while Siófok’s defence had no answer for Herning-Ikast’s speed. And this difference was made by the goalkeepers, as experienced German shot stopper Sabine Englert saved four shots, while Siófok’s Melinda Szikora and Kincso Szapo failed to stop one.
Yet a well-thought timeout by experienced coach Zdravko Zovko instilled new life into Siófok, as the French trio of Tamara Horacek, Gnonsiane Niombla and Camille Aoustin helped cut the gap to only one goal, 13:12. That was the moment when Herning-Ikast amped up their defence, switching from the usual 6:0 to a more aggressive 5:1 and even a 3:2:1 at moments, to hamper Siófok’s construction.
But it was the relentless Herning-Ikast pressure, who took few seconds to reply to almost each of Siófok’s goals, that really tilted the balance. Zdravko Zovko was forced to take an unprecedented second timeout and stop the rut. “We forgot what we talked about before the game,” said Zovko, visibly shaken after his team’s display.
Indeed, Siófok bounced back calmer and, helped by their experience and despite their shortcomings, reclaimed the lead for the break, 19:18.
While the first semi-final of these EHF Finals Women, between Nantes Atlantique Handball and CS Minaur Baia Mare, produced 36 goals in the first half, this game has also featured 37 goals after a superb offensive display in which the two most efficient attacks in the competition were unstoppable at times.
HALF-TIME UPDATE: SIÓFOK VS HERNING-IKAST 19:18
Siófok outscore Herning-Ikast in the closing minutes of the half to snatch the lead right before the break. It's clear we are going to see an exciting second half to decide who will follow Nantes to the final!
Siófok come within one goal, 16:17, and Herning-Ikast coach Kasper Christensen reacts with a timeout during which he tells his team to play faster attack and, in emphatic terms, keep fighting hard to maintain the lead in this critical stage before the break.
Here, take a look at a classy goal from earlier that helped Siófok close the gap.
Inside the last 10 minutes of the half, Herning-Ikast are holding strong in front at 17:15 in the 23rd minute.
But like Baia Mare did before them, Siófok are not allowing the distance to grow too clear yet. Enjoy one of their highlights so far below, courtesy of Camille Aoustin.
At the 15-minute mark, Herning-Ikast have the upper hand at 13:10, maintaining their three-goal advantage.
Below, enjoy one of the earlier goals that helped the Danish side create their edge.
After 10 minutes, Herning-Ikast are starting to pull away, with goals from Naja Kristensen and Line Hougard taking the side ahead to 9:6.
While Englert has made a few saves for Herning-Ikast, Siófok are having a tough time in goal with no saves yet.
Five minutes in we have a level game, 5:5. While Camille Aoustin and Nikoletta Kiss have netted two goals apiece for Siófok, Herning-Ikast's goals have come from five different players.
Don't forget that in Herning-Ikast's goal we have a player making history, as Sabine Englert is playing the semi-final in a fifth different European competition.
THROW-OFF IN SEMI-FINAL TWO
Not long until we find out who will meet Nantes in the final on Sunday! Let's take a look at some of the key facts surrounding the Siófok vs Herning-Ikast clash.
Unlike the first semi-final, the second match today is one between two sides highly experienced at the business end of the season. Siófok were the last winners of the EHF Cup before it was reformed to become the EHF European League, and both teams were set to contest the 2019/20 semi-finals before the EHF Cup was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Herning-Ikast are the most decorated club at the EHF Finals with six European trophies, having won the EHF Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup twice, and the City Cup and Champions Trophy once. The current squad is also the youngest team at the EHF Finals, with an average age of 22.12.
Siófok are the only unbeaten team in EHF European League Women this season, winning seven straight games after drawing with Kuban in their opening match of the group phase. In fact, Siófok are unbeaten for 16 European games (13 wins, three draws) since a defeat against Nantes in qualification round 3 of the EHF Cup 2019/20 in November 2019.
The teams met twice before, in the group phase of the EHF Cup in 2018/19, with Siófok winning both games.
I want to thank my teammates because they did not give up, especially as we were coming from behind all the time, which is very tough mentally. We want to put up a fight tomorrow. It is not nearly enough for us to be there. We are disappointed, but it is not the end for us.
Before we move all our attention to the second semi-final, let's take one last look at Nantes' great win. Here, see one of the critical goals in the final minutes that helped the French side firmly reclaim the lead — and boy is it a stylish one!
Didn't manage to watch the opening semi-final? We have the highlights all ready for you. Check them out below!
In case you missed the magic moment Nantes made history with their final qualification, see the emotional celebration below.
The French team played their first European cup competition in 2015/16, when they exited the EHF Cup in qualification round 3. In 2016/17, they reached the quarter-finals in the same competition but were knocked out by Metzingen. In 2018/19, it was fellow French team Paris 92 that ended Nantes' EHF Cup as early as qualification round 2. In 2019/20, EHF Finals Women participants Siófok eliminated Nantes in qualification round 3.
So, it is quite a jump for Nantes, from a one-time quarter-final berth in the second-tier competition all the way to the trophy match.
What were the key factors in Nantes big semi-final performance? Adrian Costeiu leads you through the match in the review below.
It feels really, really good. This is the result from all season — we were fighting a lot in this European cup. We’re very happy but of course we want to win the final tomorrow.
FULL-TIME: NANTES VS BAIA MARE 36:34
Nantes overthrow EHF Finals Women hosts Baia Mare to book the first place in the final.
With under two minutes remaining and Nantes in front 36:32, it seems we have our first semi-finalists. The semi-final appearance was already historic for Nantes, but they are on the brink of celebrating an even bigger milestone with the buzzer looming.
Five and a half minutes remain and Nantes are firmly in front again, 33:28.
Baia Mare rode the momentum all the way to an equaliser, but that momentum has since slowed way down while the French side scored goal after goal.
Below we have the earlier equalising goal scored by Cristina Laslo — now seeming to be just a memory rather than the turning point the Romanian team hoped for. Time is against the hosts at this point in the match.
A timeout is called after Nantes regain the lead, 29:27. We are now inside the final 10 minutes of the match.
Below, check out a great goal from Nantes' Deborah Kpodar from earlier in the half.
Less than two minutes later, a couple of quick goals lead Baia Mare to draw level at 27:27. 11 minutes on the clock and suddenly the game is wide open!
Baia Mare's effort is finally rewarded, as they reduce the deficit to just two goals for the first time since early in the game, 27:25 in the 47th minute.
The hosts appear to have grabbed the momentum, helped by some great saves from Filippa Idehn. Will they keep it?
A nervous opening to the second half for Baia Mare, who saw Nantes pull away as clear as seven goals after a penalty from Hagman in the 34th minute, 24:17.
The hosts have clawed their way back with a three goal run that sees them back to a four-goal difference at 24:20.
At half-time, Nathalie Hagman and Bruna De Paula are leading the individual scoring race, with Hagman on seven goals and De Paula on six.
An interesting first half that saw Nantes completely in control and the hosts on the back foot from the start. Our journalist Adrian Costeiu weighs in with his thoughts on the first 30 minutes:
It is definitely a start that Baia Mare did not expect for their home EHF Finals Women, as Nantes jumped to a 14:9 lead after 15 minutes. The Romanian defence did not work, failing to stop Nantes’ Bruna De Paula and Nathalie Hagman, who combined for 12 goals; goalkeepers were rotated constantly; and their attack missed too many chances, including two penalties. Coach Costica Buceschi might have called an early timeout, but did not have a proper answer to stop the rut, with Baia Mare failing to keep up with the French outfit and recording a meagre 50% attacking efficiency.
Hat tip for Serbian right back Jelena Lavko, who is playing through a knee injury that looked like a season-ending one, as stated by the official website of the Romanian side. According to the Romanian team, Lavko, who scored twice in the first half, insisted on playing the game through injury. Her game was over after 22 minutes, after a missed counter attack, as she was helped off the playing court players from both teams.
What’s next for the second half, where Nantes will start with a six-goal advantage? Baia Mare need to get better, play more clear-cut in attack and beef up their defence, where their goalkeepers combined for only three saves in the first 30 minutes. On the other hand, Nantes just need to continue ploughing, after they had their best attacking outing in one half this season.
HALF-TIME UPDATE: NANTES VS BAIA MARE 21:15
Nanted end the first half with a confident win and leave Baia Mare with a clear deficit to come back from in the second period.
With only two minutes to the half-time buzzer, it looks as though Baia Mare will not be able to put in any dent before the break, as Nantes have the advantage at 19:15.
The Romanian side are fighting hard however — Lavko is fighting through an injury just to be on court and even managed a fast break to keep her team in touch.
At the 20-minute mark, Nantes are holding steady in front, 15:11. Although Baia Mare have clearly warmed into the game, the overpowering start from Nantes has created a difficult situation for the Romanian side.
We have a new leading scorer in the match: Nathalie Hagman has passed her Nantes teammate De Paula, reaching a tally of five goals so far.
Earlier, I mentioned De Paula's standout opening to the game, with four goals from four shots inside the first seven minutes. Check out her first goal below!
After 15 minutes, Baia Mare are still fighting to come back, as they trail 13:9.
During a timeout in the 13th minute, the Romanian side's coach Costica Buceschi noted that Nantes are onto Baia Mare's preference for playing to the line and that some different solutions were needed — but they did manage at least one spectacular play before Nantes' defence wised up.
Seven minutes into the match, Nantes are in charge at 7:4. De Paula has already netted four goals from four attempts.
On Baia Mare's side, there is one unexpected individual on court: Baia Mare coach Costica Buceschi has confirmed Jelena Lavko would miss six months on court after an injury in a domestic match, but it seems this was a tactic to throw Nantes off as Lavko is on court.
The right back was Baia Mare's second top scorer this season, with 30 goals.
THROW-OFF IN SEMI-FINAL ONE
We are now just 10 minutes away from the first semi-final! Join us on EHFTV or watch live on TV, depending on your location. See a rundown of where you can watch by country below!
Let's take a look at some key facts surrounding the first semi-final, Nantes vs Baia Mare. Most notably, the teams have never met in an official match so we will be witnessing an entirely fresh encounter.
For Baia Mare, it is the second European cup semi-final after they reached the Challenge Cup final in 2003. For Nantes, the previous best international result was making it to the quarter-final of the EHF cup in 2016/17.
Both teams see strong international representation, with six different countries represented in Baia Mare's roster, while Nantes have players of seven different nationalities.
Nantes centre back Bruna De Paula comes into the EHF Finals Women with 54 goals in her season tally, starting in the qualification rounds. Baia Mare’s top scorer is Serbian left back Jovana Kovacevic, who scored 42 goals in the six games she played for an outstanding average of seven goals per match.
They look like a very strong team — one of the strongest in Romania, a championship that made great strides towards getting better and better in the last seasons. They have many international players, with plenty of experience, that take advantage of it. Their back players are very good, with [Cristina] Laslo and [Jovana] Kovacevic leading the way. The line player, Linn Blohm, is also very good both in defence and in attack. Therefore, we know they are a very good team and we prepared for this game.
It will be a very tough game for us. They [Nantes] played some good games in the French Cup and in the French league in the past weeks, therefore, I expect a tough match. It would be brilliant to win and be in the final — the biggest-ever performance for Baia Mare in women's handball — therefore, we are only thinking about the win."
For two members of the Nantes team, the return to Romania is particularly special. As we count down the final minutes until throw-off in the first semi-final, our journalist Adrian Costeiu reminds us of this special connection to the host country:
It is an awaited return to Romania for Nantes coach Guillaume Saurina and his wife, right back Camille Ayglon Saurina. The pair played for CSM Bucuresti between 2016 and 2018 prior to returning to France, and the memories are still vivid.
"I am very happy to be back here. I love Romania. I spent two beautiful years here. Moreover, we feel connected to Romania, because Mia, our nanny, whom we met here for the first time, is in France with us," Guillaume Saurina told eurohandball.com.
The former top scorer of the French league in 2010 and 2012 never won a trophy with the male team of CSM Bucuresti, while Camille Ayglon Saurina won the domestic treble with CSM Bucuresti in 2017 and 2018 and played in the DELO EHF Champions League, placing third in the 2016/17 season.
The four teams contesting the EHF Finals Women made their way to the ultimate weekend as winners of their respective groups and, in all four cases, victors in both legs of their quarter-finals.
Siófok have the strongest record of the semi-finalists, having dropped only one point in the group phase, recording five wins and one draw.
Herning-Ikast centre back Helene Gigstad Fauske enters the final weekend as the top scorer of the EHF European League, having contributed 51 goals towards her team's effort in the group phase and the quarter-finals.
Fauske expects a difficult match against Siófok in their semi-final: "Siófok are a tough team to beat because they have many good players that have superior international experience in their national teams. They also have plenty of players who have played these type of intense matches with a lot of pressure. I think that the team that will make the fewest mistakes will win. I am really excited to see where we stand as a team against a strong opponent."
[The top goal scorer award] not something I think about, but I will not stop shooting until we have won. To win this tournament it is paramount to have the whole team together performing at a high level. Our focus is to play together as a team.
Excitement is really building now! With the technical meeting having taken place this morning, where the squad lists were confirmed, all that is left is for the teams to take the court and decide the finalists.
Our journalist Adrian Costeiu weighs in with a rundown of the start lists:
The official team sheets are in! The first game, featuring CS Minaur Baia Mare and Nantes Atlantique Handball, will be missing key right back Jelena Lavko, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Baia Mare's league game on Wednesday against Gloria Bistrita. It is a huge miss for Baia Mare, who will either play a makeshift right back, or will rely on inexperienced Andreea Tecar, who is only 23 years old.
There are no obvious absences for Siófok or Herning-Ikast in the second semi-final. The Danish side brought a team with the lowest average age in the EHF Finals Women — 23 years old — including 16-year-old left back Julie Mathiesen Scaglione, who scored two goals in the current season of the EHF European League.
Time for some pre-match thoughts from our journalist Adrian Costeiu, who will be leading you through the games this weekend:
The clock is ticking down and we are getting closer to the throw off of the first-ever EHF Finals Women. Baia Mare are hosting the tournament — the first time when a Romanian city have been in this position. The anticipation is high in Baia Mare, where their team can become the first Romanian side to win a European title since CSM Bucuresti lifted the DELO EHF Champions League trophy in Budapest five years ago.
But the challenge will be big. Nantes Atlantique Handball are facing Baia Mare in the first semi-final, while the last EHF Cup champions, Siófok KC, face Danish powerhouse Herning-Ikast Håndbold in the second semi-final. Unfortunately, due to the current health situation, Baia Mare cannot host any fans — a big blow for the Romanian side — but they could take advantage of knowing the surroundings.
We also have several in-depth features for you to dive into.
Blohm: We can handle the pressure
Baia Mare line player Linn Blohm has had an oustanding few years and continued this season by playing a key role in her side reaching the semi-finals. Blohm was named in the World Championship 2019 All-star Team and was also Swedish Player of the Year in 2020.
"The expectations are high, but there is a lot of experience in our roster, so we can handle both the pressure and the requirements," Blohm told eurohandball.com.
De Paula: "The trophy is closer than it has ever been"
Baia Mare will meet Nantes in their semi-final. The French side are contesting the semi-finals of a European competition for the first time in history. Brazilian back Bruna De Paula spoke to eurohandball.com about the season and how her team are hungry for more, saying that, "it feels to me that the trophy is closer than it has ever been. We know we have to play our best in two games and that we can reach something great."
Toth: "Motivation will not be a problem"
The second semi-final pits Siófok KC against Herning-Ikast. In an exclusive interview with eurohandball.com, Siófok back Gabriella Toth spoke about the season for her club and from her personal perspective, what she expects from the Danish side, and her expectations for herself ahead of the critical matches.
"Motivation will not be a problem, as we want to finish this rollercoaster-like season with success. Experience can be significant, and we have plenty of players who have seen a lot," said Toth.
Englert setting a new record
From Herning-Ikast, German goalkeeper Sabine Englert is setting a new record this weekend, as she will play the semi-finals in a fifth different European club competition. In a special feature on Englert, we took a trip down memory lane with the goalkeeper, looking back on several highlights of her European cup career.
Read all four features below!
We have plenty of reading material to keep you entertained before the semi-finals begin!
Below, get started with our big facts and figures rundown of everything related to the penultimate stage in the competition, then test your knowledge of the semi-final participants with our quiz. Also check out the backstory behind the trophy the teams will be fighting for this weekend.
The three visiting semi-finalists arrived in Baia Mare on Friday, and are now gearing up for the semi-finals.
Siófok are defending champions of a kind, as they won the last edition of the former second-tier competition, the EHF Cup. Check out some photos of their training session on Friday below!
"I have played here one season and am excited to be back in Baia Mare. I have a lot of good memories from here, everything is familiar to me, so I feel comfortable. Unfortunately, due to the health situation, fans are not allowed in the hall, therefore, I am sorry not to feel that amazing atmosphere."
Welcome to our live blog coverage of the EHF Finals Women 2021! Courtney Gahan here to guide you through the weekend, which will see the first ever EHF European League Women title decided.
We start with the semi-finals on Saturday:
- 14:45 CEST Nantes Atlantique Handball (FRA) vs CS Minaur Baia Mare (ROU)
- 18:00 CEST Siófok KC (HUN) vs Herning-Ikast Håndbold (DEN)
On Sunday, the 3/4 placement match will take place at 14:45 CEST and the final will be at 18:00 CEST.