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13.04.2016, 17:40
Attitude the key for CSM
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FIRST-HAND INSIGHT: Losing against Vardar and Györ hurt their chances for a Women's EHF FINAL4 berth. But winning twice against the previously unbeaten team propelled CSM into the semi-finals.
 

Attitude the key for CSM

The path to success is not, nor will it ever be, easy. Nothing should be left at chance, especially when you are a newbie in your trade. This is why CSM Bucuresti’s rise to stardom at their first season in the European premier competition was an unexpected event, even for Romanian fans.

Embattled and criticiaed by many because of their huge budget – nearly 10 million Euro for the handball, volleyball and rugby teams – CSM have quickly delivered. In only two weeks, the women’s volleyball team won the Challenge Cup and the women’s handball team became the first Romanian side to reach the Women’s EHF FINAL4.

While the last five months have been exhilarating for the Romanian handball fan, with a bronze medal at the World Championship and CSM’s victory against Rostov-Don, there was no shortage of drama during this period.

The Romanian champions had all the ingredients for a flop, but managed to achieve their objective, even with a coach change in September, as Kim Rasmussen took Mette Klit’s place in an unexpected Danish swap at CSM’s helm.

This meant the change of a whole system, a thorough and difficult process that did not yield the expected results with defeats against HC Vardar or Györi Audi ETO KC, that pushed CSM almost out of the competition.

While changing a coach in a difficult time could be branded as a national sport in Romania, CSM trusted Kim Rasmussen with his vision and gave the Danish coach the time he needed to put up a real fight.

"We needed the time to adapt to the changes both in attack and in defense after the change in September. Having Line Jörgensen injured and with Deonise Fachinello’s leaving, we needed a proper right back," said Isabelle Gulldén, CSM’s top scorer with 89 goals, only eight less than Ekaterina Ilina, who tops the ranking.

But CSM’s losses against Vardar and Györ meant that the Romanian side would have a mountain to climb in the quarter-finals, as they would have had to win against Rostov, the only unbeaten team left in the competition.

"Everyone knew that the game against Rostov was the game of the season. And this type of games are only won with the proper mindset and the proper attitude," said Cristina Vărzaru, CSM’s most experienced player.

Remember the word "attitude". We will come back to it.

"We planned to hit our best form now"

Oddly, everything changed in March, after several players and Rasmussen went to their national teams, leaving CSM shorthanded. But after everyone came back, it was crystal clear that the atmosphere in the team had changed.

Not only the defeats were forgotten, the plan was forged in days. CSM was starting to aim high, the players being convinced that anything was possible.

"There is no science behind it, but we really planned to hit our best form during this period. Of course, the group matches and main round have to be played, but there can be no room for mistake during this do or die period," said Nicolae Luca, CSM’s team manager.

"Our girls had to play in the Romanian League, in the Women’s EHF Champions League and for their national teams. Bear in mind that we have Romanian, Swedish, Spanish, Brazilian, Danish and Russian players who are in their national teams.

"Therefore, we had to be careful and choose our right moment. Of course, Rostov have been a difficult opponent, but we were really confident that we could win a FINAL4 berth," added Luca.

But nothing could have been achieved without the key ingredients: A powerful defence, Line Jorgensen’s and Linnea Torstenson’s comebacks and having two excellent goalkeepers in Jelena Grubisic and Mayssa Pessoa.

"The difference is in the attitude"

However, every CSM player conceded that everything that changed was the attitude. The Romanian champions really were a team and that could be seen in defence, where the game was really won. Gone were the days in which the stars looked like they were playing only for themselves.

"Winning the first leg really pumped us up and gave us the morale boost we needed to qualify. Every team is very good in this phase of the competition. The difference is in the attitude and how much you really want to win the game.

"Not even the best coach in the world will help you, if you lack the attitude. We felt that we could win from the first leg on, when we went four goals ahead, 22:18. We knew what we could do, we went there and did it. No questions asked, everything was good," said Cristina Vărzaru.

Now, Vărzaru braces for her fourth Women’s EHF Champions League semi-final, hoping to maintain her 100% winning record. Oana Manea is at her fifth semi-final. But no player is more experienced than Aurelia Brădeanu who will play in her ninth one.

"There are no easy opponents remaining now. We played against Vardar, Györ and Buducnost already, we know them. But I really want to win another Champions League. Being in Budapest is a tremendous feature for a newbie. I hope to win the trophy again," ended Vărzaru.

With everyone seeing CSM as a dark horse for the Women's EHF FINAL4, the Romanian side is sought by everyone for the semi-finals. But with the proper attitude, anything can happen.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / es
 
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