EHF Cup countdown, part 14: MT Melsungen (GER)
Representing an entire region
MT Melsungen have reached the EHF Cup Group Phase in their maiden campaign in European competition, having seen off the challenge of some tough teams in qualification.
Under the stewardship of head coach Michael Roth, who earned a silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games playing for West Germany, the German club overcame French powerhouse Toulouse in Round 2.
This was followed by something of a personal triumph for Roth, who got one over on his old assistant Peter David, and David's current side Tatran Presov in Qualifying Round 3.
It seems their run of success stretched to the draw for the group phase as well, placed in Group D against Balatonfüredi, Guif and Nexe, giving them a strong chance of extending their European adventure into the quarter-finals.
Roth’s men also harbour hopes of returning to the international scene next season via the German Bundesliga, as they celebrate 10 years in that competition.
Manager Axel Geerken cannot wait for the action to begin.
"Our first participation in a European competition is the most successful chapter in our history of more than 80 years as a club," he said.
"Over and above that, MT Melsungen is the first handball club in our region to play in an international competition.
"In addition to the team, many helping hands in the background have contributed to this success. We are very proud to have reached the group phase of EHF Cup. Our opponents in Group D are internationally much more experienced than us, but still we are very ambitious and hope to reach the quarter-finals.”
For team captain Nenad Vuckovic, participation in EHF Cup is "a great, historic moment" for the club.
"No one expected that we could achieve a success like this already this year," said Vuckovic.
"But we have shown our potential in the qualifying matches against Fenix Toulouse and Tatran Presov.
"We had some luck in the draw for the group phase so I am sure we can prevail against the opponents and we will reach the quarter-finals."
Three questions for head coach Michael Roth:
eurohandball.com: What are your expectations for the EHF Cup Group Phase, regarding your objectives and your group opponents?
Michael Roth: "In our qualification matches against Toulouse and Presov we gained some important experience at international level. Those experiences will help us to get more confidence for the upcoming matches in the group phase. We have a good team with certain quality, so we look forward with optimism and are confident that we can reach the next level."
eurohandball.com: What does participation in the EHF Cup Group Phase mean to you and your club?
Michael Roth: "Participation in the EHF Cup, particularly the group phase, is the most successful part of the history of MT Melsungen Handball. I’m sure, the whole region is very proud on the club. As a coach I only reached the first round of the EHF Cup with TV Grosswallstadt more than 10 years ago. Therefore, the achievement of reaching the group phase with MT Melsungen is my biggest success as a coach."
eurohandball.com: Which teams are your favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Michael Roth: "It has been shown in the past that the teams that reach the finals, are those that have the most international experience. So in my opinion Berlin and Constanta as last year’s semi-finalists and Hamburg, Holstebro or Winterthur, should been seen as favourites. In addition I hope that we have a chance to go all the way too."
MT Melsungen (GER)
The road to the group phase:
Qualifying Round 2: Melsungen vs. Fenix Toulouse 34:27, 23:26
Qualifying Round 3: Melsungen vs. Tatran Presov 31:24, 25:26
Newcomers: Momir Rnic (Frisch Auf Göppingen), Jeffrey Boomhouwer (TV Emsdetten), Marino Maric (RK Maribor Branik), Sebastian Ullrich (SG Leutershausen)
Left the club: Daniel Kubes (retired, now coach of TV Emsdetten and Czech national team), Anton Mansson (Kadetten Schaffhausen), Jonathan Stenbäcken (IFK Kristianstad), Christian Zufelde (Eintracht Hildesheim), Colin Räbiger (GWD Minden II)
Coach: Michael Roth (since October 2010)
EHF European Cup competitions records:
Other EC records:
German champions: N/A
TEXT: Björn Pazen / jh
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