EHF Cup countdown, part 15: Pick Szeged (HUN)
Confronting big names, but having high hopes
Usually the VELUX EHF Champions League is the “international home” of Hungarian runners-up Pick Szeged.
Since the 2003/04 season the club from “sausage city” had always been part of this competition. But as Hungary lost a direct spot for the Champions League in the 2013/14 season, Pick needed to go through qualification, where they failed against the Macedonian runners-up of Metalurg Skopje.
So Szeged – inspired by Spanish eyes not only because of their coach Juan Carlos Pastor, but players like Roberto Garcia Parrondo – will face new challenges in a new competition including a well-known new face. Hungarian international Ferenc Ilyes returned to his home country.
In the qualification for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup Szeged eliminated Portuguese side Benfica, now tough matches are ahead with opponents like Presov, Kristianstad and 2013 EHF Cup finalists Nantes.
“After the draw it is quite difficult to predict which teams are going to get to the quarter-finals. Of course, we exactly knew that in this stage it was impossible to have easy opponents in our group. Each team participates very well in its national championship so we are looking forward to great matches. Our objective is getting to the next round and to continue our international participation,” club CEO Richard Mezei, a former Hungarian international said.
Team captain Attila Vadkerti expects matches on top level: “Our draw could have been better and worse as well. Our goal is getting to the next stage from our group. This is absolutely not an easy task since on one hand, Nantes consist of a huge number of national team players and Tatran Presov are also a very good team, on the other hand, Kristianstad can be seen as a black horse of the group at this moment.
"Scandinavian teams are always very dangerous opponents because we do not know their young players who are trained in a strong championship and are hungry for success. Kristianstad can be able to make a surprise during the Group Phase. The decisive factor can be the number of away victories. If we are able to win our home matches and parallel we can win one or two away matches then we will be able to get to the quarter-finals.”
Three questions to coach Juan Carlos Pastor:
What are your expectations for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup - concerning your objectives and your group opponents?
Juan Carlos Pastor: We are in a very strong group with excellent teams. Our goal is getting to the next stage. Of course, for this, we will have to win all our home matches and try to get as many points as possible during the away games as well. During the Group Phase we are going to go forward step by step so now, our first home match against Nantes is in focus.
What does the participation in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Juan Carlos Pastor: In the beginning of the season, our plan was the participation in VELUX EHF Champions League but after our defeats in the Wild Card matches against Metalurg Skopje we had to join the EHF Cup. This competition is becoming stronger and stronger year by year. Nowadays, more and more brilliant teams play in this competition, so it will be hard for any of the participants to survive the Group Phase and get to the quarter-finals.
What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Juan Carlos Pastor: In my opinion, Füchse Berlin, Hannover and Montpellier are going to be part of the EHF Cup Finals. Besides, I wish our team is going to be the fourth one. Of course, since this is sport, anything can happen during spring.
Pick Szeged (HUN)
The road to the Group Phase:
Newcomers: Ferenc Ilyés (Wisla Plock), Vladimir Vranjes (Adeamar Leon), Niko Mindegia (Naturhouse La Rioja Logrono), Roberto Garcia Parrondo (Atlético Madrid)
Biggest successes in EHF European Cup competitions:
VELUX EHF Champions League
TEXT: Björn Pazen / br
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