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24.02.2016, 21:54
5 reasons for FTC’s main round meltdown
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FIRST-HAND INSIGHT: Ferencváros won their group and were considered as huge favourites to reach the Women's EHF FINAL4 but the Hungarian champions faltered and managed to win just one of their main round matches. What happened to the Budapest outfit in such a short time?
 

5 reasons for FTC’s main round meltdown

The standings in Group 1 of the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round speak volumes about the strength of the preliminary groups. The first three spots are occupied by teams from Group A while Ferencváros and their fellow Group B contesters are on fourth, fifth and sixth.

Further proof of their superiority is HCM Baia Mare, who started the Main Round without a single point but have already clinched a quarter-final berth by winning all of their games against opponents of Group A: FTC, Fleury Loiret and Thüringer HC.

„We gave our best in the group phase and a lot of people believed we are title contenders," centre back Zita Szucsánszki said. "But the truth is that if you compare our squad to the top teams of the competetition, we are underdogs in the main round."

However, Ferencváros have other issues, too. The Hungarian champions, whose unbeaten run and excellent form shown in the autumn season almost guaranteed their place in the quarter-finals, did manage to reach the next phase of the competition but are far less convincing than they were a couple of months back.

FTC won only one of their five main round games and fell from firm contenders on second place to outsiders on fourth. EhfCL.com are after the reasons.

1. Lack of quality reserves

Ferencváros have a great starting lineup with household names as Nerea Pena, Zita Szucsánszki and Szandra Zácsik. But due to the club’s limited resources the reserves lack either quality or experience to be on a par with the starters.

Coach Gábor Elek is reluctant to use his second line and such a long season takes its toll on both those who play too much and those who rarely get a chance to feature in big games.

2. Failure of the national team

Despite Ferencváros are the title holders in Hungary, the country’s No. 1 team are Győr as far as squad strength and quality are concerned.

However, the national team is built around Ferencváros and the IHF World Championship in December brought nothing but despair and heartbreak as Hungary missed the chance to qualify for the Olympic Games. The image of the weeping Szucsánszki and Dóra Hornyák featured on the front pages of all newspapers before Christmas.

„That hurt us big time, both physically and mentally," Szucsánszki said. "We played under enormous pressure and could not deliver. We did not have time to get over the disappointment as the main round started shortly after the World Championship.”

3. Fatigue of key players

Zita Szucsánszki and Piroska Szamoránsky usually play the full 60 minutes. It is obvious that fatigue takes its toll on them, especially in such intensive matches, and that both their defensive and offensive performances tend to drop.

Add Szandra Zácsik, just back from maternity leave, to the equation and you have a reason why FTC drop points in the last minutes in the main round where they won them in the group phase.

„There is no need to explain the facts," Szucsánszki said. "We were really tired. We had tough games in the Hungarian league right after the World Championship, then the Champions League, and add the Hungarian Cup games to those.”

„I believe we play our best when we have the time to prepare for such high tempo games. But lately we had so many matches that we did not have time to properly prepare for certain games and the lack of training certainly made itself felt at times.”

4. Those damn fastbreaks

FTC make two transitional changes to defence and if they cannot make them, their defensive wall becomes vulnerable, not to mention the huge amount of fastbreak goals they concede due to technical errors in attack.

„Well, if you don’t concentrate perfectly in attack you concede fastbreak goals," Szucsánszki said. "This is a rule of the game. But our defense has not worked properly lately so it is not only about the fastbreaks. We are working on it, though.”

5. Strength of opponents

Ferencváros did a great job in the group phase. However, the much changed Thüringer HC, the talented newcomers Fleury Loiret, and Podravka Vegeta are no match for the heavyweights of Group A. What worked well with fresh legs and heads against group phase opponents proved way too little against top sides, especially away from home.

„It is of great importance that we have the entire week to prepare for Baia Mare. It is a privilege we have not enjoyed for some time now and I firmly believe this will have a positive effect on our game," Szucsánszki said.

"Frankly, our aim is to avoid Buducnost, which means we have to avoid finishing fourth but otherwise the other three possible opponents are of roughly the same quality. We are going to give our all to beat Baia Mare and hope Fleury will do the same to Larvik.”

Ferencváros can still finish second in Group 1. All they have to do is beat Baia Mare at home in the last round and hope that Fleury, who handed a surprise defeat to Larvik in Norway, repeat the feat and get the better of Larvik in Orleans.

Bence Mártha is a blogger-turned-journalist and a lifelong fan of handball.

Founder and co-editor of Hungary’s most prominent handball blog (Hatosfal) later worked for leading Hungarian news sites and became a TV pundit for the Hungarian broadcaster of all EHF tournaments.

Bence has been a literary translator for over ten years, has worked as an interpreter and a tour guide before settling with journalism.

The local guy from Veszprém has been EHF’s Hungarian correspondent for three years and will be until Veszprém win the VELUX EHF Champions League. Then he will retire and move to a deserted island.


TEXT: Bence Martha / ew
 
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