MATCH PREVIEW: Both finalists aiming to win first EHF Cup title – Hamburg can complete their European silverware collection, Berlin up for first international title
Füchse and HSV collide in Berlin final
For the second time since the initial event in Nantes two years ago, the hosts of the EHF Cup Finals are in the final.
However, home side Füchse Berlin will hope to avoid the same fate of HBC Nantes (loser against Rhein Neckar Löwen) and their expected 8,000 fans happy in the title decider against HSV Hamburg. The 2015 EHF Cup Final matchup contains a lot of history and stories.
EHF Cup Finals, final:
Füchse Berlin (GER) vs HSV Hamburg (GER)
For the 16th time since the implementation of the EHF Cup in 1993 a German team will raise the trophy, a fact made clear even before the final of the EHF Cup Finals in Berlin.
Hamburg (against Skjern) and Berlin (against Velenje) won their respective semi-finals on Saturday to reach the final of this competition for the first time in club history. Berlin had failed in the 2014 semi-final against Szeged, while Hamburg are debutants in the competition.
German domination continues
The long-running domination of the competition by German teams will also continue after a short interval. Since 2004, only German teams were the winners of the EHF Cup, with one exception in 2014 when Pick Szeged (Hungary) won the final against Montpellier in Berlin.
The duel of host Füchse and Hamburg will be the fifth all-German final in the EHF Cup: In the 1997/98 finals Kiel beat Flensburg, in 2005 Essen defeated Magdeburg, in 2006 Lemgo were the final winners against Göppingen and in 2011, Göppingen struck back against Großwallstadt.
Both semi-finals on Saturday were imprinted by the outstanding goalkeeping performances of Johannes Bitter (HSV) and Silvio Heinevetter (Füchse).
The pair were not only former teammates in the German national team, but also won the EHF Cup together eight years ago. They were part of the SC Magdeburg squad to win the title in the finals against Aragon (Spain) in 2007 and both goalkeepers are the only players on court on Sunday to have already won this competition.
While Füchse are eagerly hoping for their first EHF European Cup trophy, Hamburg can complete their collection of silverware after winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 2007 and the VELUX EHF Champions League in 2013.
At least one player will complete his individual collection, either Füchse right back Konstantin Igropoulo, who won the EHF Champions League with FC Barcelona in 2011 and the Cup Winnners’ Cup with Chekhovskie Medvedi in 2006, or the HSV trio Pascal Hens, Matthias Flohr and Torsten Jansen, who had been in the winning Hamburg squads for both international titles.
Going out with a bang
This will be the last international match in their current position for both coaches. Dagur Sigurdsson (Berlin) will focus only on the German national team from June on, while Jens Häusler (Hamburg) will become HSV assistant coach again when Michael Biegler (also Polish national team coach) will take over the team next season.
In addition, some key players of both sides want to say farewell with a trophy. Konstantin Igropoulo (to Kolding) and Iker Romero (end of career) will leave Füchse, while Henrik Toft Hansen and Petar Djordjic (both to Flensburg) will leave Hamburg.
In the current Bundesliga season both teams won their respective home matches: Hamburg beat Berlin 33:25, while Füchse took victory at the Max-Schmeling-Halle 28:25.
By winning the title, HSV line player Henrik Toft Hansen can highlight a successful weekend of his family, as his currently pregnant girlfriend Ulrika Agren’s Buxtehude SV won the German Cup on Saturday. And Henrik would hand over the baton to his brother Rene, who will fight for the VELUX EHF Champions League title with THW Kiel in two weeks’ time in Cologne.
“Hamburg are the slight favourites due to their more experienced squad and because of our long series of injured players,” said Sigurdsson prior to the final. Their team must continue to live without the injured defensive middle block, Denis Spoljaric and Jesper Nielsen.
On the other side, HSV are shocked by the severe injury of their short-term comeback. After only nine minutes on court against Skjern, Johan Petterson tore his Achilles tendon, which was confirmed on Saturday evening, meaning 21-year-old Kevin Herbst is the team’s only right wing with Stefan Schröder and Hans Lindberg also out injured.
“The advantage of having a final against Berlin is that we do not need to prepare so intensely, as we know them very well,” says HSV coach Häusler, who found another advantage for his team: “As we played the first semi-final, we have two hours more to recover.”
“We had to fight until the very end, so I hope that my players can recharge their batteries in a quite short time,” Sigurdsson says, who hopes for a boost by the Berlin fans: “They can grant us wings on Sunday, but we also saw and heard that Hamburg have a huge number of vociferous spectators with them. So there will also be another duel on the stands for supremacy in the Max-Schmeling-Arena.”
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
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