Last qualification round of the EHF Cup starts with 32 teams from 22 nations. Aggregate winners will qualify for the newly installed stage
Final steps towards new Group Phase of EHF Cup
The first two knock-out rounds have already been played, now the crucial time for 32 remaining teams from all over Europe (and even eastward of the Ural mountains) will start 23 November.
Each two duels lie ahead of those teams which made it to Round 3 of the newly formed Men’s EHF Cup, merged from the former EHF Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup before this season. Each 16 teams have qualified from the second qualification round or made it to this stage by the seeding list or after missing the qualification for the VELUX EHF Champions League. In total, 68 teams had started in this competition.
The third and decisive round for the qualification for the Group Phase will be played on 23 to 25 November and 1 and 2 December. The aggregate winners qualify for the four groups with each four teams of the next stage, which starts 9 February and includes six match days before the quarter-finalists are known.
The draw for the Group Stage will be held on the fringes of the EHF Women’s EURO in Serbia on 6 December in the Hyatt hotel in Belgrade.
Currently the bidding process of the EHF Cup Final Tournament is running, as clubs, agencies or arenas can bid for hosting this first ever edition of the competition’s finish.
Some well-known faces from past European Cup competitions including the VELUX EHF Champions League are among those 32 teams from 22 nations. Germany is the only nation represented by three teams, followed by Bosnia Herzegovina, Spain, France, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Russia and Slovenia with each two participants. Only one co-favourite had been eliminated in the second round in Nexe from Croatia, which lost against Brest (BLR).
SL Benfica from the Portuguese Atlantic coast is the far Western team, Sungul Snezhinsk (Russia, close to Chelyabisnk) are their Eastern counterpart – and like Permskie Medvedi situated close to Ural mountains. So their opponents Orlen Wisła Płock and KIF Kolding have a real long journey for their away matches ahead.
Despite those travels the Polish runners-up and the newly formed Danish team including players of bankrupt club AG København belong to the favourites for reaching the Group Phase of this competition.
Also the German trio hopes for marching on together, with current Bundesliga top ranked Rhein Neckar Löwen (2011 participant at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne) facing the defending champions of the EHF Challenge Cup, Greek champions Diomidis Argous.#
Defending EHF Cup champions Frisch Auf Göppingen having an eastward journey to Brest in Belarus and former EHF Cup and EHF Champions League winner SC Magdeburg facing Vardar Skopje, the toughest of those three opponents.
Last season’s VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finalists Cimos Koper (Slovenia) are supposed to go on against Porto from Portugal same as Spanish side Aragon against Eskilstuna from Sweden.
A close encounter on top level is expected in St. Raphael, where the host from France will face Tvis Holstebro from Denmark after missing the qualification for the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase highly close in the final of the wild card tournament against Hamburg after extra-time. On the paper, the second French team Nantes have an easier opponent in Benfica.
After their brilliant performances in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification, Israel hope for another sensation, but their domestic champions Rishon Lezion will have to play both encounters with Bacau in Romania due to the current political situation in Israel.
Also both Norwegian teams – Haslum and Elverum – have the clear objective to progress to the Group Stage.
Open matches are expected in the duels of Banja Luka vs. Tatran Prešov and Siscia vs. Maribor, as Spanish side Naturhouse La Rioja are the favourites against Vojvodina (Serbia) like Zaporozhye against Austrian champions from Hard.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / br
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