FINAL PREVIEW: For the first time in history, two Portuguese teams meet in a European Cup final, as SL Benfica and ABC/UMinho meet in the Challenge Cup Final.
Historic meeting in Lisbon
Portuguese and European handball history will be written in the two upcoming weekends.
For the first time, the final of a European Cup competition is an entirely Portuguese affair, as S.L. Benfica and ABC/UMinho face each other in the Men's Challenge Cup Finals, the first leg taking place in Lisbon on Saturday night.
While it is the first time that the two teams meet in an European final, playing finals of European Cup tournaments is no new experience to either club.
Benfica were in the Challenge Cup Final once before – in the 2010/11 season, when the Lisbon based side were defeated by Slovenian RK Cimos Koper.
The first match in Lisbon ended in a 27:27 draw, but Koper won in the return match in Slovenia 31:27 and lifted the trophy.
Last year, Benfica made it to the semi-final, again in the Challenge Cup, but lost both matches against Romanian Handbal club Odorhei.
ABC/UMinho have a longer tradition reaching European finals than their adversaries from the capital. However, the team from Braga in Northern Portugal have not been able to win any of three finals they have been in so far.
If we go back far enough, we even find the club in an EHF Champions League Final. In the very first edition of the continental top flight under the EHF umbrella, in the 1993/94 season, ABC reached the final, but lost narrowly to TEKA Santander who were one of Spain's big teams at the time.
At home in Braga, ABC got a 22:22 draw, only to lose 23:21 away, though.
Since then, ABC have been in the Challenge Cup Final twice. In the 2004/05 season, they lost against Wacker Thun from Switzerland, and last year, they were defeated by Handball club Odorhei, who had sent out their countrymen Benfica in the semi-final.
ABC and Benfica are actually seeing quite a lot of each other these days. Apart from meeting in the Challenge Cup Final, they are also meeting in the final series of the Portuguese championship.
In the series, which is being played in the best of five modus, ABC won the first match at home in Braga 40:38 after extra time, but on Wednesday night, Benfica managed to equalise in the series, as they won 28:25 at home.
On Saturday night all fans watching it live on ehfTV will see which team will take a big step towards their first European title.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / es
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