FEATURE: Slovakian underdogs made it all the way from the first qualification round to the group phase as the only team of the top 16 in the EHF Cup. The team might be new at this European level, but not their coach Martin Liptak.
Liptak makes history with Hlohovec
Eliminating the likes of St. Gallen, Borac Banja Luka and Arendal on their way, Hlohovec will compete in the group stage of the EHF Cup for the first time in the club's history as the only team to earn their spot through all three qualifying rounds.
Hlohovec may have little experience with handball Europe, unlike their coach Martin Liptak. Former international left wing and successful coach, 49-year-old Liptak spoke to eurohandball.com how does it feel to bring little Hlohovec to exclusive European company and how different it feels from playing the EHF Champions League with Bregenz and Presov.
"The big pressure is gone, we are full of positive emotions, despite we did not play well on Sunday against Arendal. We are looking forward meeting top European clubs on this level. We want to show handball that brought us group stage berth. It is a historic moment for the handball in Hlohovec.“
Pass on experience
Liptak is keen to use his rich European experience to prepare players for the difficult, but enriching encounters.
"We want to convince players, our handball is good enough to compete with opponents we'll get. Our aim, our dream was to qualify for the EHF Cup group stage. Now that we are in, excitement prevails, pressure is gone. We want to enjoy handball and make positive shocks in handball Europe.“
Liptak's maximum in the EHF Cup remains Last 16 with Bregenz in 2010/11. "I cannot compare the success with Hlohovec to my previous European spells with Tatran Presov or Bregenz. Both were bigger clubs on higher sporting level, in terms of infrastracture, working with higher budgets.
"Despite problems we had, despite injuries, we showed solid performances to earn the spot in last 16 of the EHF Cup. It is precious result for club like Sporta Hlohovec and personally I would compare it to reaching the top eight at the 2010 EHF EURO with Czech national team."
When asked about the draw, Liptak picked his favourite opponent quickly. "Füchse Berlin. I have personal connections with the club. Of course, it is a top European Club and hard nut to crack, but people in Hlohovec create absolutely amazing atmosphere at home games and they deserve to welcome such a great handball team.
"Our aim is to have great fun in home games. Handball is fun and we want to entertain people with our best handball against European giants. At the same time, we want to earn some points and prove we deserve to be in last 16."
For the first time in history, Slovakia will present two teams in the EHF Cup Group Phase draw on Thursday in Vienna, Liptak reflecting positively. "It is very positive for Slovak handball. We are building a club able to compete with Tatran Presov, which can only prove to have a good effect on Slovakian men handball.“
Hlohovec are seeded in Pot 4 together with IFK Kristianstad (SWE), Csurgoi KK (HUN) and Sporting CP (POR). Tatran Presov are seeded in pot 2.
TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / br
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