Hypo NÖ rising again
The excitement of a European Cup final is back in Maria Enzersdorf after being absent for a while. Three years after the era of Gunnar Prokop, Hypo NÖ has the chance to add another international title to their outstanding collection.
The ladies in blue and yellow are pretty hungry for this cup as the last two European Cup finals (EHF Champions League 2008 and Cup Winners' Cup 2004) did not end the way the team from Lower Austria had planned. Painful defeats against Zvezda Zvenigorod in 2008 and Ikast Bording in 2004 still play on the mind of some of Hypo’s current squad.
Although the Cup Winners' Cup trophy would be the ninth international title for Hypo NÖ, it would be the first one in this competition as all other big victories have been celebrated in the EHF Champions League and its precursor, the Champions Cup.
The journey of the famous Austrian equipe started long ago, in 1976, with a team consisting of some track and field athletes looking for some fitness sport. In 1977 the team won the first national championship, and at the moment, it holds 37 national championship titles and 26 national cup trophies.
Talking about Hypo NÖ is nearly impossible without mentioning the name of Gunnar Prokop who was the heart of the club for more than 30 years and was responsible for many of those successes. It is all the more surprising to many people that Hypo NÖ is back at the top of level of European handball despite Gunnar's retirement a few years ago.
Hypo NÖ coach András Németh will also finish his career at the end of the season and would like to leave with a triple: Austrian champion, Austrian cup winner, and also winning his first Cup Winners` Cup title.
"I will retire in May and so my main focus now is on the return leg in the European cup. We produced a good match in Paris and we aim to bring the title to HYPO," Németh said.
The team of Hypo NÖ consists of players from Austria and Hungary, plus a substantial contingent from the Brazilian national team, led by brilliant captain and IHF World Handball Player 2012 Alexandra Nascimento (pictured right). She is the latest in a long line of World Handball Players to play for Hypo NÖ, following in the footsteps of Seong Ok Oh, Ausra Fridrikas, Mia Högdahl, and Jasna Merdan-Kolar.
After reaching third place in the EHF Champions League Group Matches, Hypo NÖ made their way to the final of the Cup Winners' Cup, knocking the teams of Bayer Leverkusen (GER), Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) and Thüringer HC (GER) out of the competition.
After the magnificent away result (+8 victory in Paris) and with the return leg of the final being played on home soil, everything should be in place for the blue-yellow ladies to add the Cup Winners' Cup trophy to their collection. All eyes at the club are firmly focused on the present final, with no adverse thoughts about the outcome of their two previous finals.
TEXT: Jürgen Bauer / br