Thun, Lisbon, Tel Aviv and Argous aim to follow Cimos Koper.
EHF Challenge Cup: Two former winners meet in the semi's
RK Cimos Koper are a brilliant omen: the Slovenian side, winner of the EHF Challenge Cup in 2011, is a role model for the four semi-finalists in this season's EHF Challenge Cup. After winning the EC competition Koper became Slovenian champions and have now reached the quarter-finals of the VELUX EHF Champions League. The four current participants of the Challenge Cup semi-finals have the same dreams.
Maccabi "Tyrec" Tel Aviv (ISR) vs. AC Diomidis Argous (GRE)
For the first time ever an Israeli team have the chance to proceed to the finals, as Maccabi "Tyrec" Tel Aviv is the first ever club from their country to be in the semis - and this in their first ever EC season. Tel Aviv have good memories of playing Greek clubs as they beat AC Doukas in the Last 16 before eliminating Maribor Branik from Slovenia in the quarter-finals. Tel Aviv can count on the experience of their Serbian playmaker Milos Mitrovic and several Israeli national team players.
For the third time in their history, Greek side AC Diomidis Argous have qualified for the European Cups – and now they have reached their first ever EC semi final after beating Kriens-Luzern from Switzerland in the quarter finals. On top of their Greek players AC Diomidis Argous have three Serbs, one Albanian and one player from Cyprus in their squad. Argous is the second Greek team in competition’s history after Fillipos Verias were in the semi finals in 2003.
Sporting CL (POR) vs. Wacker Thun (SUI)
Two former winners of this competition do battle in Portugal and Switzerland: Sporting CP, formerly known as Sporting Lisbon, is a well known name in the world of sports and handball – and the team from the Portuguese capital continues a series of clubs from their league to reach this stage, as since 2004 four Portuguese teams had reached the semi-finals of the EHF Challenge Cup. Sporting CP is the most successful, winning this trophy already in 2010. Last year their local rival Benfica were finalists, but lost against Koper.
Beating 2009 finalist CSU Suceava from Romania twice clearly in the quarter-finals paved the way to the semi-finals against Wacker Thun. Sporting CL, who are currently playing their 14th European Cup season, can count on their top player Romanian international Daniel Muresan, alongside Portuguese national team players.
After beating Portuguese side ABC Braga in the 2004/05 finals of the EHF Challenge Cup Wacker Thun became the first and currently the one and only Swiss winner of the EHF Challenge Cup.
In the last four years Thun did not qualify for any European Cup, now they are aiming high for the finals after beating SSV Bozen in the quarter-finals. Right wing Jonas Dähler is the only current Swiss national team player, but Wacker count on three players from the former Yugoslavia in their back court.
TEXT: Björn Pazen
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