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21.09.2017, 15:10
A very Polish affair for Vistal Gdynia
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Women's EHF Champions League countdown: Vistal Gdynia's squad, made up of nearly all Polish players, begin their first Women's EHF Champions League Group Phase campaign.
 

A very Polish affair for Vistal Gdynia

Last season Vistal Gdynia became Polish champions for the second time in their history, and now for the first time they will be part of the EHF Champions League Group Phase. The main goal for the nearly all-Polish squad will be to gain experience at the highest level.

Three questions before the new season:

Is Group A favourable for Gdynia?

Nyköbing are making their EHF Champions League debut and Bucuresti are at this stage for only the third time, although the Romanian side have won the Champions League already. Only Krim provide experienced opposition for Gdynia, having more than 20 appearances in this competition. All this means that Gdynia are not that far behind two of the three teams in terms of experience. However, last year Krim showed that their transition is already successful and Nyköbing were strong in  the EHF Cup 2016/17, so the Polish champions are clearly below the rest in terms of (international) experience.

 

What are the main objectives for Gdynia?

"Our opponents are very strong and have great experience in the Champions League. We want to present the best version of ourselves, gain experience and snatch some points," says Gdynia manager Krystian Gańcza. "We hope that this Champions League experience will pay off in future, because we have a very young team," he added. In general, the chances to make it to the main round seem to be limited, but Krim showed last season that a young team are able surprise the favourites when they get into a flow.

Can Gdynia cope with the loss of their top star Monika Kobylinska?

The left-handed Polish international transferred to Germany, joining 2016 EHF Cup semi-finalists TusSies Metzingen. Alicja Pekala is the only new arrival for Gdynia, and the right wing will take some responsibility in the right back position too.

Under spotlight: Agnieszka Truszyńska

She replaces Paweł Tetelewski as Gdynia coach this season. Truszyńska played most of her career in Gdansk and made more than 110 appearances for the Polish national team. In 2008, the 46-year-old started her coaching career.

Self-esteem

As everyone at Gdynia hopes to gain experience from the Champions League to allow them to be successful in domestic competitions, team captain Małgorzata Gapsk is looking forward to facing the big stars. "We will have the opportunity to duel with the best teams in Europe and against the world's best players, Cristina Neagu for example. Every Vistal Gdynia player was dreaming of playing in the Champions League, and finally that is going to happen."

For manager Krystian Gańcza, the whole competition and organisation will be a challenge. "We, as a club, hope that we’ll be able to meet all requirements, so we have a lot of work to do both on and off the court."

Fun fact

A Polish team has never qualified for the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round since the implementation of the format in the 2007/08 season. Since last year the chances have increased, as three, instead of the previous two, teams proceed from each group. So Gdynia have a chance to make history in November.

 

What the numbers say

With 18 of Gdynia's 19 players all from the same country (Poland), Gdynia break a record in this season's Women's EHF Champions League. The only exception to their all-Polish roster is Patricia Matieli Machado from Brazil.

Vistal Gdynia (POL)

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

Newcomers: Alicja Pękala

Left the club: Monika Kobylińska, Kinga Lalewicz, Gabriela Urbaniak, Aleksandra Dorsz

Coach:  Agnieszka Truszyńska (since 2017)

Team captain: Małgorzata Gapsk

 

EHF Women's Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/18 season): 2

Qualification (1): 2012/13

 

Other EC records:

Cup Winners’ Cup

Last 16 2012/13

EHF Cup

Round 2 2010/11

Challenge Cup

Semi-finals 2009/10

 

Polish league: 2 titles (2012, 2017)

Polish Cup: 3 titles


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ap
 
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