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27.09.2017, 10:10
Slovenian side aiming for more
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Women's EHF Champions League countdown: RK Krim Mercator are aiming to improve on last season's impressive group phase performance in this season's EHF Women's Champions League.
 

Slovenian side aiming for more

They have won the Women's EHF Champions League twice, and four years ago Krim reached the semi-final. However, since then a major transition has happened. Young coach Uroš Bregar rejuvenated the squad and, after a surprisingly strong group phase last season, the Slovenian side hope for a longer and better season this time around.

Three questions before the new season:

Can Krim continue on their path of development?

They were the biggest surprise of last season's group phase, as they made it through to the main round with six points thanks to two victories against Larvik. They went on to lose all their main round matches, but they gained respect. "Our goal is to make steps forward. We proved that we are on the right track. We hope that we will be able to fulfil our primary goals in domestic and international competitions and to walk an additional mile towards our long term goal," says Tina Kravanja, Krim's Secretary General. The group phase matches against Gdynia and Nyköbing will be an indication of what the future holds.

Does the lack of competition in the Slovenian league have an impact on Krim?

Krim are not used to facing teams of equal quality in the Slovenian league, so the Champions League is their main competition. However, the plan of Krim to develop young, hungry talent works well when they are allowed to focus on one competition. "To be a part of the Champions League, is a big honour for us," says Kravanja.

Is the team stronger or weaker than last season?

Jelena Despotovic and Tamara Mavsar are the biggest names to join Krim, but that is balanced against Vesna Milanović Litre and Laura Kamdop leaving. The team is expected to be on the same level as last season. "We have a young and ambitious team, which wants to prove the improvement. We want to stand up against strong teams and get stronger," says team captain Miša Marinček.

Under spotlight: Tamara Mavsar

After one season at Vardar, when the team unluckily lost the Champions League final against Györ, Tamara Mavsar returns to Krim, where she had been playing since she was 17. The left wing learnt a lot at Skopje, and is expected to be one of the best strikers in the Ljubljana-based team.

Self esteem

According to Tina Kravanja, Krim were drawn in a "competitive group", with Bucuresti as the clearly-marked favourites. "This year they will again have a great team led by a highly skilled coaching staff." She expects Nyköbing to be a "high obstacle to pass" and Gdynia are "an example for the great handball played in Poland".

"Our first big goal is to come in to the main round and to even strengthen our game. We are aware that we will face hard opponents but we are not scared," says Marinček. "With haven't played the teams from Denmark and Poland yet, but Polish women's handball is in progress and the Danish handball has been on a high level for many years now." 

Fun fact

When Celje's men took the EHF Champions League trophy in 2003/04, Slovenia became just the second country to host male and female Champions League winners, after Krim had won the women's competition in 2001 and 2003. Spain was the first country, and FYR Macedonia became the third when Vardar's men won the title in 2017.

What the numbers say

Since 1993, when the EHF started organising the European Cup competitions, Krim have never been absent from European competition. They make their 23rd appearance this year in the 25th Champions League season, and they have also played four times in the Cup Winners' Cup.

RK Krim Mercator (SLO)

Qualification for the EHF Women's Champions League 2017/18 season: Slovenian champions

Newcomers: Jelena Despotović (Debrecen/HUN), Olga Perederiy (Michalovce/SVK), Tamara Mavsar (Vardar Skopje/MKD), Tjaša Stanko (RK Zagorje/SLO), Maria Adler (Odense/DEN), Lamprina Tsakalou (O.F.N. Ionias/GRE), Sanja Gregorc, Aneja Beganović (RK Ljubljana/SLO)

Left the club: Vesna Milanović Litre, Tamara Georgijev, Laura Kamdop, Nina Jeriček,

Coach: Uroš Bregar (since February 2016)

Team captain: Miša Marinček

 

EHF Women’s Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/18 season): 23

Winner (2): 2000/01, 2002/03

Finalist (1): 1998/99, 2003/04, 2005/06

Semi-finalist (1): 2012/13

Quarter-finals (5): 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 2004/05, 2006/07

Main Round (7): 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2016/17

Group Phase/Champions League (2): 1999/00, 2015/16

 

Other EC records:

Cup Winners' Cup:

Semi-finalist 2015/16

 

Slovenian league: 22 titles (1995–2015, 2017)

Slovenian Cup: 24 titles (1993–1997, 1999–2017)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ap
 
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