EHF Cup countdown, part 12: RK Branik Maribor (SLO)
Slovenian handball is on the rise, as shown by the national team reaching their first semi-final at a World Championship in Spain.
At club level, Slovenia is among the top nations with regard to participants in the top EHF European Cup competitions. RK Celje and Gorenje Velenje stand strong in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Cimos Koper have made it to the Group Phase of the newly structured EHF Cup as have RK Maribor Branik.
Despite competing in Slovenia’s top division for just five years, Maribor compete in an EHF European Cup competition for the third time, after reaching the quarter-final in both the EHF Challenge Cup and the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup in previous seasons.
On route to the the Group Phase, RK Branik Maribor had to play all three rounds, the Slovenians beat Dudelange, Kopavogur, and finally the Croatian team RK Siscia in Round 3.
Marko Šibila’s squad are aiming high despite their strong and largely more experienced opponents.
“It will be big experience for us to compete with clubs like Orlen Wisła Płock. We are convinced, that there will be a good atmosphere in our hall, and with the support of our fans we can beat everyone,” manager Andrej Bauman says.
Bauman even hopes to proceed to the quarter-final in their first ever appearance in the EHF Cup.
“It is our goal to fight with Elverum and Holstebro for second place until the end of the Group Phase.
“Our domestic matches against Celje, Gorenje and Cimos (Slovenian teams that are experienced in European competitions) are perfect preparations for the EHF Cup games.”
For team captain Simon Razgor, the participation in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup is “a new milestone in the history of handball in Maribor.
“I think, that we compete with interesting opponents, among them Wisła Płock are the first favourite to finally top the group. Holstebro and Elverum are teams from countries where handball is one of the most popular team sports with big successes on international level.
“But we are definitely not without chances to get one of the top two places in our group and to qualify for the quarter-final,” said Razgor.
The qualification for the Group Phase is the first major success for new club president Boris Novak, who took over this position in June 2012.
Concerning the squad, Maribor was the short-term club of Renato Vugrinec, who arrived from Germany, but then transferred to Macedonian VELUX EHF Champions League participant Metalurg Skopje. The one long term injury in the squad is Blaž Kleč, the line player scored three goals in the competition before being ruled out.
Three questions to coach Marko Šibila:
What are your expectations for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup, concerning your objectives and your group opponents?
Marko Šibila: We have a group with attractive clubs and we look forward for the start of the competition. We can manage to compete with all teams in our group on an equal level. As usual, our aim is to reach the best possible results and to probably compete for the two positions which lead to the next step of the competition.
What does the participation in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Marko Šibila: By the qualification for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup we fulfilled one of the objectives for the current season. For us this stage of competition will be one of the top experiences in this season. Especially we’re glad that our fans will have opportunity to attend great handball matches in Maribor.
What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Marko Šibila: We consider all group opponents as very strong teams with a great international value. But if I have to point out the favourite of the group, then I vote for Wisła Płock. This Polish team is composed of really excellent players with a lot of experience. Last but not least, they were participants of last season’s Champions League.
Maribor Branik (SLO) – Group C
The road to the Group Phase:
Round 1: 27:28, 39:24 against HB Dudelange
Round 2: 42:25, 35:25 against HK Kopavogur
Round 3: 29:30, 35:22 against RK Siscia
Coach: Marko Šibila, since 2010
Newcomers: Aljoša Štefanič (SSV Brixen Handball/ITA), Miha Zarabec (RK Trimo Trebnje/SLO), Rok Šimič (RK Gorenje Velenje/SLO), Renato Vugrinec (SC Magdeburg/GER), Ivan Pešić (HC Zagreb CO/CRO), Tadej Sok (RK Jeruzalem Ormož/SLO), Matjaž Mlakar (RK Sevnica/SLO), Klemen Krajnc (RK Maribor Branik U-21)
Left the club: Mislav Lončar (HSG Bärnbach/Koflach/AUT), Renato Vugrinec (HC Metalurg Skopje/MKD), Dejan Kramar (unknown), David Fister (unknown), Nino Legnar (RD Drava Ptuj/SLO)
Biggest successes in EHF European Cup competitions:
EHF Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 appearance – quarter-finalists 2010/11
EHF Challenge Cup: 1 appearance – quarter-finalists 2011/12
Slovenian Cup: finalists 2010
Born on 5 March 1962
Marko Šibila started his player career in the club, he now is coaching for the third season. He played for several Slovenian clubs like RK Grosuplje, RK Kodeljevo, RK Inles and RD Slovan, before playing for Italian side Generali Triest from 2000 to 2003, where he became domestic champion and played in the EHF Champions League.
In 2003 Šibila started his coaching career, first at RD Termo Škofja Loka, followed by RD Trimo Trebnje and since 2010 RK Maribor Branik, also working for the Slovenian and Italian national teams.His biggest coaching successes were the silver medal at the EHF EURO 2004 at home, the participation at the 2004 Olympic Games as assistant coach of Slovenia, and the sixth place at Mediterranean games in Tunis 2001 as head coach of Italy.
Born on 18 September 1985
The left wing was born in the Slovenian handball capital of Celje and played for his home club, winning several titles with RK Pivovarna Laško, before transferring to Maribor.
Born on 27 March 1991
Špelić was born in Zagreb and played for Croatian clubs RK Dubrava, RK Varteks, RK Siscia, and RK Zagreb before transferring for the first time abroad to Branik Maribor. The left back has scored 24 goals in the competition so far.
Find more information on RK Maribor Branik here
The schedule of the Men´s EHF Cup Group Phase can be found here
TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cor