BLOG: ehfTV commentator Tom O Brannagain shares his views on the inaugural MVM EHF FINAL4.
Györ took everything in their stride
The dust has settled on a wonderful first FINAL4 for women. The arena, the crowd, the media and the players were treated to a wonderful spectacle that was a feast for the eye. The Hungarians can do a sporting event, of that there is no doubt, and the matches and all surrounding brouhaha was executed in a flawless manner.
I am still a fan of women's handball. In a male dominated arena, ie: sport, these athletes have pushed themselves to the physical limit to be able to play two games within two days against other high level teams. And given that there was so much exposure during the FINAL4 they had to contend, not only with the physical aspects, but also the mental fatigue.
Having watched the four games, I feel the need to distinguish between hope and expectation. If I can quote a female author (apt I might add, given the nature of the event) it would be Charlotte Bronte, herself a pioneer at that time.
"Life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not match the expectation. And therein lies the problem for me. My expectation of what would await me was not matched by the matches that unfolded before me.
Let me be clear. I had set the bar too high in my own mind. Better I should have said that I hoped for great games and not expected that the games would be automatically amazing.
Hand on heart, nobody could say that the games were exciting. I say that in a competitive sense. The one game that was close (Vardar vs Buducnost) was not pleasing on the eye.
Then what exactly do I want. You can't have it both ways. As I said I expected too much, perhaps having been spoiled by other matches I had watched in the lead up to the event. I knew that the level could be higher, but probably didn't take into consideration the pressure that exists for these players. The one dramatic game was not one for the video highlight reel programmes, but at least it generated some spice in a game that had very little else going for it.
The pressure is that they were pioneers. The first to step out on the court in the inaugural FINAL4. As it happened Györ took everything in their stride and none of the other teams could compete against them. The fact that the arena was a sea of green was a boon to the Hungarian club and in both games, they showed that they were a class above the other teams.
So they were the shining lights among all the teams, playing at the level they could and blitzing both opponents in the first 15 minutes, which allowed them to coast to victory. They were so good that the games as a whole lost their competitive edge. If I review them in isolation, then they had it all.
Great offence, great individual players and great defence. They were so good, that even with four defenders, in the final, the six out court players from Buducnost couldn't find a goal, when it was their best chance of clawing back the deficit.
And therein lies my dilemma. I had anticipated close, exciting, nail-biting, team handball. One game gave us that, but not in the greatest technical manner. The rest were no contests.
For all my doom and gloom, there were rays of sunshine. The two greatest centre players in the world were on view. Görbitz and Groot. They lit up the tournament with an individual brilliance that was poetic, dramatic and artistic. They played the game the way I see it, the way my expectation demands it. They are worth the price of the entry fee to watch the way in which the see the game, call the game and play the game.
Görbitz in the final was like the conductor of a great orchestra and all the team played to her tune. She is a firebrand that exudes class and confidence that then pulsates outwards to her teammates, filling them with the same boundless energy. It has the reverse effect on the opposition.
Groot is similar. A better team player, for me, she is just as good, but doesn't have the same level of player around her as does Görbitz. She also plays with a smile, which endears her to the neutral. Her post match interview having lost the semi-final showed a class and a tenderness that places her among the greats of our sport.
There were many great players on show. Some coming to the end of their careers. They have sacrificed so much in the pursuit of handball perfection that it is unfair of me to be hyper critical of the games that I saw. You could not fault the effort and in the end the best team will almost certainly win.
No one could argue with that after the weekend.
While three of the teams will leave this event wondering what might have been, I would urge them to remember these famous words.
TEXT: Tom O Brannagain, ehfTV commentator
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