ROUND PREVIEW: The first leg of the Men's Challenge Cup throws-off over the upcoming weekend in three venues.
Six teams start semi-final hunt
Six hopeful teams will be starting their hunt for the semi-final of the Men's Challenge Cup this weekend, when the first leg of three of the four quarter-final ties are taking place.
Due to the situation in Ukraine, the last quarter-final, between Swedish IK Sävehof and Ukrainian ZTR Zaporozhye is going to be played as only one match on neutral ground in Klaipeda, Lithuania.
It will be two two teams who will either be chasing a record or setting one who meet in the Hala Sportova in Pulawy Saturday evening.
If Pulawy manage to achieve an overall win against Tongeren, the Polish team will be in the semi-final of a European competition for the first time in history. In the 2010-11 season they were also in the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup, but they have never made it any further.
For Tongeren, it is the first time the Belgian side has made it as far as to the quarter-final in a European Cup tournament in spite of having lot of experience from various European Cups.
Both teams come with fresh wins in the national leagues this week. Pulawy won as big as 49:25 at home against Szczecin, while Tongeren won 30:24 away against Eynatten-Raeren.
For the first time has a Finnish club team made it as far as the quarter-final in a European tournament.
“All the Challenge Cup dates have been in our season program since August. Even the final,” Cocks coach Kaj Kekki told eurohandball.com, and he is not particularly bothered by meeting Metaloplastika in the quarter-final.
“I think the handball gods were on our side at least partly, because we managed to avoid Sävehof and ZTR Zaporozhye,” he said.
Both teams who meet in the Sala Sporturilor HC Odorheiu Secuiesc Sunday evening are already celebrating their best European season ever. Neither team has been this far in Europe before. This fact is also reflected in the attitude of Milaneza coach Paulo Faria.
“Our main goal is accomplished, so we will play this round relaxed and enjoy our handball,” he said.
Vlad Caba, head coach by Odorhei, seems to see things slightly differently.
“The Men´s Challenge Cup is our top priority this year, we focus our entire energy on this competition. I hope we will be better than them. I think that Aguas Santas-Milaneza is not stronger than the Swedish team who is left in the tournament,” Vlad Caba said.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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