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14.10.2015, 20:40
“The FINAL4 pushes women’s handball”
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Three-time EHF Champions League winner Grit Jurack talks about the start of the season, her favourites and the trends.
 

“The FINAL4 pushes women’s handball”

Grit Jurack has won the EHF Champions League three times – more than any other German female player. The 38-year-old former right back took the trophy in 2006, 2009 and 2010 with Danish side Viborg HK.

Now, the current team manager of the German women’s national team analyses the Women’s EHF Champions League group by group right before the start of the 2015/16 season, predicts which teams will make it to the FINAL4 in Budapest and shares her opinion on general topics of the flagship competition.

ehfCL.com: Which teams are your personal favourites for the FINAL4 in Budapest and the 2015/16 title?

Grit Jurack: The number of contenders is quite high this season. Vardar are my personal favourites; below there are established sides such as Buducnost, Györ and Larvik beside debutants like Bucharest or Rostov-Dov who can make it to Budapest and the podium.

ehfCL.com: Except Larvik, all your contenders are from east or south-east Europe – is this the general trend?

Grit Jurack: Those teams currently have the biggest financial resources, either thanks to sponsors or full arenas. Players only have a limited time to earn money and to provide for themselves after an active career. If the situation would have been the same ten years ago, maybe I also would have transferred to Russia and not to Denmark. Those teams bring women’s handball forward at the moment, not only in their countries, but in the whole of Europe.

ehfCL.com: You have played ten years for Danish sides – is your heart bleeding due to the current situation?

Grit Jurack: No, this is the stream of history and maybe it will be different in future again. I do not cross my fingers for Danish or German sides, but several teams. The sides have become very international – my former teammate Katrine Lunde now plays in Rostov-Don, Anja Althaus at Vardar, Linnea Torstensson and Bella Gullden at Bucharest, and so on.

ehfCL.com: What is your opinion on the new playing system implemented in the 2014/15 season?

Grit Jurack: It makes the Women’s EHF Champions League more attractive, mainly in those countries and regions that usually have a huge interest in women’s handball. Of course, it means the players have a bigger burden, but looking at clubs such as Buducnost, Vardar or the Romanian sides, they have no concurrence in the domestic leagues and only focus on the Champions League. In general, the new playing system is good to improve and position women’s handball in Europe. 

ehfCL.com: Since 2014, the winners are crowned at FINAL4 events. Are those tournaments also a step ahead or do you prefer the old version with semi-finals and finals in two legs?

Grit Jurack: It’s a perfect idea, as it’s great for fans and media that one weekend decides it all – this event pushes women’s handball. It’s most important to find the right hosting venue, like for the men in Cologne. You have to go where a huge number of fans are, where women’s handball is in the spotlight. Budapest is a good start, but cities like Podgorica and Skopje should also be taken into consideration. 

ehfCL.com: Can you give us your analysis of the four groups in the Women’s EHF Champions League 2015/16?

Grit Jurack: Group A: This is a truly fantastic group with Larvik, Rostov and Baia Mare. Those three teams will definitely proceed to the main round. I do not see big chances for Krim. 

Thanks to their Danish coach Jan Leslie, a bunch of Russian national team players and mainly the signing of Katrine Lunde, Rostov have good chances to go all the way to Budapest, which would be another milestone for Russian handball. 

Larvik will have the same goals. For Baia Mare we have to see the impact of the big number of incoming and outgoing players.

Group B: Compared to Group A, it will be much easier to reach the main round. 

I expect THC coach Herbert Müller to motivate his team in the right way again so it will be no problem for them to march on. 

Fleury is the big unknown, but they can cause some surprises. FTC will proceed too, even though the squad is not as deep as before. 

But all teams in Group B will have really tough tasks in the main round. Chances for the quarter-finals will depend on as many points they carry to the next stage.

Group C: Unfortunately Hypo will not a single chance for the main round among those powerhouses. Vardar has matured, the players know each other much better than last season and I believe that Jan Pytlick can influence this team. 

For Györ, you have to see how Anita Görbicz can cope with the situation of having a baby and playing handball – I know, what I’m talking about, this is not easy. Györ are among the contenders for the FINAL4, but it will be hard to win the competition without Katrine Lunde. My slogan is still: ‘With Katrine in your squad, you can fight for any title.’ 

Midtjylland lacks penetrating power and a top playmaker compared to their group opponents.

Group D: Defending champions Buducnost are in exactly the same situation as Györ – they will have a problem in the goalkeeper position after Clara Woltering left. In my opinion, she was the key for winning the trophy in May. 

Bucharest have a brilliant squad, but I doubt that it is enough to win the title as early as this season. It is like for Vardar last year – the team has to adapt and to rehearse to develop. 

Below those top favourites, Sävehof have better chances to proceed compared to Lublin.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg
 
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