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24.09.2018, 15:40
Last-minute plan changes and bright young talents
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Women's EHF Champions League countdown: RK Krim Mercator (SLO). The perennial Slovenian champions had some disruptions in the preparation phase but aim to be as competitive as possible in their 24th Champions League campaign
 

Last-minute plan changes and bright young talents

In recent EHF Champions League seasons, Krim have been struggling to get closer to the old days, when the Slovenian side was considered one of the best clubs in Europe. Even with the loss of Elizabeth Omoregie, the plan was to be more competitive, but it went somewhat wrong.

Krim waited in vain for two Angola national team players, Magda Cazanga and Azenaide Carlos, to arrive for this season, but they did not.

Now, the plan for the season is to be as competitive as possible, with the fighting spirit never dying.

Three questions before the season:
Who will stand out in Krim's squad?


Centre and left back Tjasa Stanko has proven she can be a big threat to the opponents' defence. After collecting some miles in the EHF Champion League, the 20-year-old is expected to be the leader for the Slovenian champions. Coach Uros Bregar is also counting on Greek talent Lamprini Tsakalou to shine.

In addition, the squad rely on players who have already taken the burden in the Slovenia national team, like Nina Zulic and Alja Koren. The more experienced players, like team captain and goalkeeper Misa Marincek Ribezl, are there to guide the way.

The Champions League has always been the most important competition for Krim, as they have not had many problems in the domestic championships. In the last 25 years, Krim have won 23 championship titles and 25 Slovenian Cups.

Will the first group phase be the limit?

Defending champions Györ, who are the top favourites to win the group, will be Krim’s first European opponent of the season. Then there is Thüringer, who have a better record in head-to-head clashes versus Krim in recent years, plus regional rivals Podravka, who joined from the qualifiers.

“The group is very interesting from different perspectives. We have last year’s champions in Györ Audi ETO KC. To play against this kind of team is always a privilege, but there is also a responsibility to be at your best. Thüringer HC have been playing Champions League for a long time now. They have a lot of experiences and in the past, they’ve showed us how strong they are, by winning the last couple of matches against us.

“HC Podravka Vegeta have built a very strong team this season and showed great games in the qualification tournament to qualify for this competition. We are sure we will have six very difficult matches and we hope we will perform on the level that want to,” are the words of club management. Krim’s secretary general Tina Kravanja is also hoping the group matches in Stozice will attract more crowds to help the Slovenian champions.

How bright is Krim’s future?

Back in the glory days, only the best European players wore Krim’s jersey, alongside the top Slovenian players. Things have changed over the years – now the team from the Slovenian capital is searching for young talents everywhere.

“Following the last couple of seasons, we can look back and see that we are following our long-term plan, which was our primary goal. We have regained the position we had in national competitions and we were successful in adding domestic players to our first team,” says Kravanja.

Slovenians form the core of the team and most have made their way into the national squad. The team tries to play modern handball, and often delivers it.  

“We are still in the phase of establishing the proper formula to be close to the best ones. We can promise that we will not be an easy opponent for anyone and we will try to give our best in every game, to show modern handball, which will also give satisfaction to our fans and spectators coming to our games,” says Kravanja. “Before the start, we wish all the teams all the best in the upcoming season.”

Self-esteem

Not getting all the players they wanted, and especially the long wait, may have influenced the team – but coach Bregar can be relied on to do his best to make something out of his current hand. Youth can also be an advantage.

“We are proud that our club is a member of the elite competition for so many years. Our goal is similar to last year’s objectives, which were to qualify for the main round, and play good handball with all our hearts and souls. If the opportunity for better results arises, we will not hesitate to grab it with both hands,” says captain Marincek.

Under the spotlight: Tjasa Stanko

Tjasa Stanko is the top gun in the team. She can play her way through defensive systems and works well also as a centre back.

She joined Krim after taking the surprising national title with Zagorje and knows how to be in the spotlight, as she already proved with the national team.

RK Krim Mercator (SLO)

Qualified for the Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 season:
Slovenian champions

Newcomers: Sara Ristovska (HC Vardar), Dora Krsnik (HC Podravka Vegeta), Maja Vojnovic (RK Krka Novo mesto), Natasa Ljepoja (RK Zagorje), Nina Zabjek (RK Ljubljana), Hana Vucko (RK Ljubljana)

Left the club: Elizabeth Omoregie (CSM Bucuresti)

Coach: Uros Bregar (since February 2016)

Team captain: Misa Marincek Ribezl

Women EHF Champions League record:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 24
Winners (2): 2000/01, 2002/03
Runners-up (3): 1998/99, 2003/04, 2005/06
Semi-final (1): 2012/13
Quarter-final (4): 1996/97, 1997/98, 2004/05, 2006/07
Last 16 (1): 1995/96
Main round (8): 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2016/17, 2017/18
Group phase (4): 1999/00, 2001/02, 2007/08, 2015/16

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-final (1): 2015/16
Quarter-final (3): 1993/94, 1994/95, 2007/08

Slovenian league: 23 titles (1995-2015, 2017-2018)
Slovenian Cup: 25 titles (1993-1997, 1999-2018)


TEXT: Uros Volk / cg
 
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