History in the making in Norway and Luxembourg
Preview for the first leg of the Challenge Cup Semi-finals
IL Runar and Handball Esch will make history this weekend when they play the first leg of the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
For Runar it is the first time in the history of the club that the team has made it this far in any European competition, SKA Minsk come to Norway for the first leg, while Handball Esch, who go to Romania to meet C. S. U. Suceava, is the first team from Luxembourg to get this far in Europe.
Both first leg matches take place on Saturday 20 April.
IL Runar (NOR) vs SKA Minsk (BLR) Saturday April 20 16:00
It will be a historic afternoon in Runarhallen i Sandefjord, when IL Runar take on SKA Minsk in the first leg of the Challenge Cup semi-final.
This is the first time that the club from Sandefjord has reached the semi-final in a European tournament, but according to their head coach Marinko Kurtovic it may be difficult to take the step further and reach the final.
“I have seen several of the matches Minsk have played, and I find them very strong, particularly at home. I would say that the chances are 60-40 in favour of Minsk.
“There is no doubt that we are in for a tough return match, when we get over there. Therefore, it is crucial to us to get as good a starting point for that match as possible in our home game.
“It will be a tough challenge, but not impossible,” Marinko Kurtovic told eurohandball.com.
However, the respect seems to be mutual.
“I see the chances as equal, maybe with a small advantage for us, because we play the second match at home. We are not a club who is rich with trophies, so the Challenge Cup is a tournament we would very much like to win,” SKA´s head coach Spartak Mironovitch told eurohandball.com.
C. S. U. Suceava (ROM) vs. Handball Esch (LUX) Saturday April 20 17.00
While Suceava reached the Challenge Cup final in the 2008/09 season, their guests, Handball Esch, have never been this far in any European competition.
In fact, no team from Luxembourg ever has, so the eyes of the entire handball society in Luxembourg will be upon the players from Esch in this first leg and in the return match at home next weekend.
Head coach Werner Klöckner previously revealed the secret behind the success of Esch so far in the tournament.
“We are a big family. It is not only the players; it is the environment, the club, the fans and the many volunteers. We are big family and Luxembourg can be very proud of this team,” Klöckner told eurohandball.com, after his team qualified for the semi-finals.
There is no doubt that Handball Esch are in for a tough challenge this time against an experienced Challenge Cup side.
Not only did Suceava reach the final of the Challenge Cup in 2009, the Romanians also reached the quarter-finals in the 2009/10 season and again last year.
However, the club is taking nothing for granted against the inexperienced side.
“We have a difficult game ahead of us. Esch are a good team with very disciplined players, players who were raised in a disciplined manner,” Suceava´s technical director Petru Ghervan told eurohandball.com.
“They have two or three players who can shine in a game and can become very dangerous for us. The team who will make the least errors will win,” concluded Ghervan.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
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