EHF Cup countdown, part 11: Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER)
Rhein Neckar Löwen burst on to the EHF European Cup scene seven years ago. Founded from two clubs in the Mannheim area, Kronau and Östringen, in 2002, “the lions” rose directly to the top of the German Bundesliga.
After reaching the final of the EHF Cup in 2008, they qualified for the VELUX EHF Champions League for the first time in the 2008/09 season, reaching the semi-final, and again two years later.
Last season, they closely missed out on the final of the EHF Cup after being eliminated by the eventual champions Frisch Auf Göppingen, losing 65:62 on aggregate after winning the first leg at home.
Before the start of the current season, Löwen had to undergo big changes. Some key players left, some new, young and talented players arrived in coach Guðmundur Guðmundsson’s squad.
But those who thought that the Mannheim team would have to struggle to remain at the top group of the German league, was completely wrong.
After only one defeat, against defending German and VELUX EHF Champions League champions THW Kiel, Rhein Neckar Löwen are currently top of the Bundesliga.
New players like Danish goalkeeper Niklas Landin (All Star Team member and silver medallist at the World Championship), Icelandic Alexander Petterson, Swedish international Kim Ekdahl du Rietz and the Spanish Guardiola brothers (including new world champion Gedeon) fit perfectly in the team.
“We want to play attractive and passionate handball,” is the motto of Rhein Neckar Löwen, who are supposed to be among the favourites to reach the Finals of the newly structured EHF Cup.
However, they have to cope with a severe injury to their most important player, German international and team captain Uwe Gensheimer, who is out until the end of the season after he tore his Achilles in the successful EHF Cup Round 3 match against Greek champions Argous Diomidis.
Despite this weakening of their squad, manager Thorsten Storm is optimistic for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup.
“We have to compete in a tough group, but we are eager to make the next step, to qualify for the quarter-final.”
Norwegian international and co-team captain Bjarte Myrhol is looking forward to this new competition format and ensures that his team will give it their all.
“We want to play with will, passion, courage, and fighting spirit to be successful.”
Three questions to coach Guðmundur Guðmundsson:
What are your expectations for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup, concerning your objectives and your group opponents?
Guðmundur Guðmundsson: We face KIF Kolding, one of the absolute top teams in this competition and in the Group Phase, which was built from the two best Danish teams. They combine a strong defence and superb goalkeeping.
Additionally, we will have long trips to Prešov and Zaporozhye, which are also inconvenient opponents. So we have due respect for this Group Phase, but want to proceed to the knock-out stage.
What does the participation in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Guðmundur Guðmundsson: We want to go as far as possible and want to take the opportunity to present our team and our club on international floor.
What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Guðmundur Guðmundsson: Besides Kolding, I consider the German teams Göppingen and Magdeburg as the main contenders.
Rhein Neckar Löwen (GER) – Group B
The road to the Group Phase:
Round 3: 37:17, 27:27 against A.C. Diomidis Argous
Coach: Guðmundur Guðmundsson (since 23. September 2010)
Newcomers: Kim Ekdahl Du Rietz (HBC Nantes/FRA), Matthias Gerlich (TV Hüttenberg), Gedéon Guardiola (SDC San Antonio/ESP), Isaías Guardiola (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Nils Kretschmer (VfL Bad Schwartau), Niklas Landin (Bjerringbro-Silkeborg/DEN), Jonas Maier (Löwen youth team), Alexander Petersson (Füchse Berlin), Marius Steinhauser (HG Oftersheim/Schwetzingen), Stefan Rafn Sigurmannsson (Haukar Hafnarfjördur/ISL)
Left the club: Karol Bielecki (KS Kielce/POL), Ivan Čupić (KS Kielce/POL), Henning Fritz (end of career), Róbert Gunnarsson (Paris HB/FRA), Krzysztof Lijewski (KS Kielce/POL), Børge Lund (Füchse Berlin), Michael Müller (HSG Wetzlar), Niklas Ruß (SG Leutershausen)
Biggest successes in EHF European Cup competitions:
VELUX EHF Champions League: 4 appearances – semi-finalists 2010/11 and 2008/09, quarter-finalists 2009/10, qualification 2011/12
EHF Cup: 2 appearances – semi-finalists 2011/12, quarter-finalists 2006/07
EHF Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 appearance – finalists 2007/08
Born on 23 December 1960
After his active career as a player – only for Icelandic clubs – and winning six domestic championship and cup titles each, Gudmundsson became coach of Fram Reykjavik in 1995. Four years later he went to Germany for the first time to become coach of Bayer Dormagen, before he was national team coach for the first time from 2001 until 2004.
Later he returned first to Fram and then, from 2008 to 2012, on the bench of the national team as successor to Alfred Gislason. Parallel, Gudmundsson became coach of Danish side GOG Svendborg and then sports director in Copenhagen and at Rhein Neckar Löwen, before he became Löwen head coach in 2010.
After the Olympic Games he quit his position as Icelandic national team coach to fully focus on his club. The biggest successes in his coaching career were a silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the bronze medal at the EHF EURO 2010 with Iceland, and he led Löwen to the VELUX EHF FINAL 4 2011 in Cologne.
Born on 2 July1980
Born in Latvia, Alexander Petterson took over the Icelandic citizenship and became an Olympic silver-medallist in 2008 and EHF EURO bronze medallist in 2010. The left handed right back started his career in Riga, later he transferred to Icelandic side Grotta, where he played until 2003.
He then moved to Germany, wearing the jersey of Düsseldorf, Großwallstadt, Flensburg-Handewitt, and Füchse Berlin, before he transferred to Löwen this summer.
Born on 30 August 1983
The four times Swiss handball player of the year played for both Zürich clubs Grasshoppers and ZMC Amicitia until 2009, before he left his mother country towards Denmark for one season, playing for Bjerringbro Silkeborg. Then the playmaker, who was a Swiss champion twice, transferred to Rhein Neckar Löwen in 2010.
Find more information on Rhein Neckar Löwen here
The schedule of the Men´s EHF Cup Group Phase can be found here
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor