ROUND PREVIEW: The Men's Challenge Cup reached the semi-final stage. The first leg matches are scheduled for the Easter weekend.
Large respect among contenders
Respect for the opponent is the key word when you look at the statements from the coaches of the semi-final participants in the Men's Challenge Cup.
The Easter weekend will see the first leg of the semi-finals ties, where RK Metaloplastika Sabac from Serbia are receiving Aguas Santas Milaneza from Portugal Saturday evening.
On Easter Sunday, then, Partillebohallen by Gothenburg is the venue of the match between former EHF Champions League team IK Sävehof and Azoty-Pulawy from Poland
Metaloplastika were involved in a dramatic quarter-final tie against Cocks from Finland, in which the Serbian team were on the edge of being sent out after losing 23:17 away in the first leg.
However, a 26:19 win at home sent the Serbian team on to the semi-final after all, and there is no doubt that Metaloplastika will be striving for a similar result at home against Aguas Santas who were involved in just as tight a decision in their quarter-final against HC Odorhei from Romania.
After a 31:28 away and a 30:27 win at home, only away goals helped the Portuguese team to the semi-final.
And it is a Portuguese team with a lot of respect who will be entering the Zorka in Sabac Saturday.
“Metaloplastika is a history of handball, and for us it is a unique opportunity and honour doing this semi-final and confront an opponent of this caliber. It is a strong team with a typically Yugoslav 5:1 defensive system. Metaloplastika is the favourite in this semi-final, but we will try with all possible humility to go to the final. That would be a historical moment for Aguas Santas Milaneza,” head coach Paolo Faria told eurohandball.com.
IK Sävehof (SWE) vs KS “Azoty-Pulawy” (POL)
Unlike the three other teams in the semi-finals, Sävehof only had to win one match in the quarter-fina to be ready for the semi-finals.
Pulawy did not have to sweat much to reach the semi-finals, though. After a 31:22 win at home against HC Tongeren, the Polish team could make their semi-final berth complete through a 26:23 win in Belgium.
If we are to believe the coaches of the two teams, we may expect a close encounter.
“It will be interesting, but also tough. We will be op against a team with some big and physically strong players and with good players in all positions. I expect an equal match, like a semi-final should be, but hopefully we can make a good result, from which we can benefit in the return match in Poland,” Sävehof coach Magnus Johansson told eurohandball.com.
Azoty-Pulawy's assistant coach Marcin Kurowski also expects a tight affair.
“The four teams that have remained on the battlefield in the Challenge Cup hope to advance to that final, and we also have such expectations. We know Sävehof from the Champions League. It is a typical representative of the Swedish handball. In this meeting, there is no strong favourite. Good form on a given day and a bit of luck may decide the promotion to the final, Marcin Kurowski told eurohandball.com.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
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