«nov 2017»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
303112345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930123
45678910
«dec 2017»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
27282930123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
1234567
«jan 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930311234
567891011
«feb 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
2930311234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627281234
567891011
«mar 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
2627281234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930311
2345678
«apr 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
2627282930311
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30123456
«may 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
30123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031123
45678910
«jun 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
28293031123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
2526272829301
2345678
«jul 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
2526272829301
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
303112345
«aug 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
303112345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
272829303112
3456789
«sep 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
272829303112
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
1234567
«oct 2018»
MOTUWETHFRSASU
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930311234
567891011
AlbaniaAndorraArmeniaAustriaAzerbaijanBelgiumBosnia HerzegovinaBelarusBulgariaCroatiaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkSpainEstoniaFaroe IslandsFinlandFranceGreat BritainGeorgiaGermanyGreeceHungaryIrelandIcelandIsraelItalyKosovoLatviaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMoldovaFYR MacedoniaMaltaMontenegroMonacoNetherlandsNorwayPolandPortugalRomaniaRussiaSloveniaSerbiaSwitzerlandSlovakiaSwedenTurkeyUkraine
 
EnglandScotland
Other EHF Sites 

16.08.2017, 11:20
All eyes on the hunted from Europe's handball capital
«Go back »Print Version


VELUX EHF Champions League countdown: HC Vardar (MKD). The defending champions want to prove their glorious campaign last season was not a one-off.
 

All eyes on the hunted from Europe's handball capital

They sensationally took the trophy last season, beating Barcelona and PSG within 24 hours, each with a buzzer-beating winner, during their maiden voyage at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne.

Now HC Vardar are the hunted, not the hunters, for the first time. The Macedonian and Champions League champions hope to show that they are no one-hit wonder.

Three questions before the new season:

- How will the new champions cope with the pressure?

Everyone wants to beat them. In any sport, teams are extra motivated when facing the champions. All eyes in Europe are on Vardar after their triumph. Many teams like Hamburg, Flensburg or Kielce failed on their way to Cologne after winning the trophy. Vardar can prove that they have the strength to stand the heat and the pressure.

“It will be more difficult than last season, as we are the champions and the pressure is on us to perform like champions every game,” team captain Stojanche Stoilov says. “But I think the team can match those expectations. The objective now is different, as we have to defend the crown but to do that first we have to secure a spot at the FINAL4.”

One thing is different in Skopje: the fans. They propel you to heaven when you win, but they wish you to hell after three defeats. There is only black and white, no grey.

- Will they show enough hunger for success?

Vardar are three-time SEHA Liga champions and have now taken the biggest trophy in international club competitions. Is this team ready to rumble again, do the players still have the hunger? It is the job of coach Raul Gonzalez to keep this fire burning at the highest level.

- How will the team fill the void after the loss of Alex Dujshebaev?

Still only 24, Alex Dujshebaev had grown to one of the big Vardar stars. In his three years at Skopje he turned from boy to man, became a leading figure. It wasn’t just the goals he scored, he was a kind of extended arm of coach Raul Gonzalez on court. Now he has joined his father in Kielce. More shoulders will have to carry the responsibility now, including his successor Dainis Kristopans.

Under spotlight: Dainis Kristopnas

Being the sole newcomer at Vardar is not the only reason that all eyes will be on Dainis Kristopans. The 213-centimetre tall Latvian will have step in for Alex Dujshebaev, but in a different way. The team tactics need to be adapted to a classical shooter as Kristopans’ style is different to Dujshebaev’s, more focused on powerful scoring.

Self-esteem

The club’s management is reluctant to think about anything less in the new season than another participation in Cologne. “As the current champions, our goal will be the same as in the previous four years – to make it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne and to try to defend the title. We are aware that goal will be very difficult to reach, but I believe in my team,” Vardar CEO Davor Stojanoski says.

Fun fact

Skopje is the only city in the history of the EHF Champions League to be the home of a male (Vardar) and a female (Kometal) winner. In the 2016/17 season, both Vardar clubs made it to the respective FINAL4 tournament, and even to the final. This city is the handball capital of Europe.

What the numbers say

Since the implementation of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in 2010, no winners have successfully defended their title the following year. Most of the reigning champions stumbled even before getting to Cologne. However, after seven years without even a player defending the title, Ivan Cupic broke this spell in June: the Croat won the trophy with Kielce in 2016, and lifted it again with Vardar.

HC Vardar (MKD)

Qualification for the VELUX EHF Champions League 2017/18 season: Macedonian champions

Newcomers:  Dainis Kristopans (Brest Meshkov)

Left the club:  Alex Dujshebaev (Vive Tauron Kielce), Petar Angelov (Antalya), Alexandr Dereven (Spartak Moscow)

Coach: Raul Gutierrez Gonzalez (since November 2013)

Team captain: Stojanche Stoilov

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/2018 season): 12
Winners (1): 2016/17
Quarter-final (3): 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16
Last 32 (1): 1999/2000
Group Phase (6): 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2007/08, 2009/10

Other EC records:

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-final 1998/99, 2004/05, 2010/11; Quarter-final 2006/07

Others:
Winners of SEHA Liga 2012, 2014, 2017

Macedonian league:
11 titles (1998/99, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17)

Macedonian cup:
12 titles (1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew
 
Share
CONTACT FORM
x