Goosebumps and friendly chat before the EHF FINAL4
The EHF FINAL4 is just around the corner and the four participating teams have arrived in Budapest, where they will take the court in MVM Dome on Saturday and Sunday. While the pressure is on the players to deliver and successfully end the gruelling season on a high, there has still been some time for familiar faces to meet, chat and rekindle their relationships before the games begin.
As of Thursday, all the four teams were checked in to the hotel in the Hungarian capital and started the final preparations, with former teammates and players featuring for the same national teams exchanging words.
Norwegian stalwarts Stine Bredal Oftedal, Kari Brattset Dale, Katrine Lunde, Nora Mørk and Henny Reistad could be seen together chatting before the media call took place on Friday, in the Grand Margaret Island Hotel in Budapest.
Familiar Hungarian faces also met, with those players from Györi Audi ETO KC and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria checking in with each other before switching focus to the task at hand and heading for the training sessions scheduled in the Sterbinszky Amália Kézilabdacsarnok training hall.
There were big smiles and friendly exchanges, but the eyes remain on the big prize, the EHF Champions League Women trophy, won by Vipers Kristiansand in the last two seasons. Several rival players gave joint interviews, like Lunde, one of the two players who can win the title for the seventh time this weekend, and Ana Gros, one of the most consistent goal scorers in the last decade in the premium European competition who is still searching for her first title.
“We have been focusing on the game against Vipers, the semi-final, because this is the most important game. We have seen them in the last weeks on video. We know them inside out, but I think that is also true for them, because they have surely been studying us,” says Györ line player Linn Blohm.
The two sides have also met in last year’s final, with Vipers taking the trophy thanks to a flawless performance, with a 33:31 win over Györ. The Norwegian side have the chance to become only the second in history to secure a three-peat.
“I am really looking forward to the competition, I want us to enjoy the [EHF] FINAL4. Even though the whole crowd is going to be against us, it is always amazing to play in front of such an audience and I have only positive vibes before the start of the competition,” says Vipers right back Anna Vyakhireva, who is featuring in the EHF FINAL4 for the third time, and is aiming to secure her first title.
“I have goosebumps just thinking about the games and it is still one more day before we play. It is something amazing and we can hardly wait to start.”
Indeed, the positive vibes will be kept, but pressure and intensity will be added to the mix starting from Saturday, with four crunch clashes ready to deliver drama and to wrap up what was an outstanding season in the EHF Champions League Women.
Add over 20,000 fans who will flock to the MVM Dome and create one of the best, if not the best atmospheres ever at the EHF FINAL4, and the menu is complete, with the mix of ingredients ready to make for an exquisite tasting.
With FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria in the mix for the first time in their history, it will surely be louder than ever.
"I cannot tell how excited I am to play in front of 20,000 supporters. It gives me goosebumps. FTC has the best fan base in the world and we are lucky to have them. We will try to do everything to make them happy and satisfied," said FTC left wing Gréta Márton.
For a few hours, green will be the preferred colour in MVM Dome, as both Györ and FTC share the colour on their shirts, which brings extra spice and extra motivation for their players.
“There will be a lot of green people in the stands,” says Blohm, who is used to playing with plenty of fans donning the Györ shirt whenever the Hungarian powerhouse features on their home court.
Both Hungarian teams need to overcome a challenge from Scandinavian sides, with Vipers and Team Esbjerg ready to make history in Budapest. If things go the way Vipers and Esbjerg plan, then the 3/4 placement match will be an all-Hungarian affair.
But that is a big if and it will only be decided on the court.
"We are calm and well prepared. We have been working for this throughout the season. To be here and to be the winner of the Champions League. The next step is to overcome the difficulties against FTC. We are united and very motivated to beat the home team and then win the final," says Esbjerg back Henny Reistad, who needs only 10 goals to become the all-time top scorer of the EHF FINAL4.