Men’s EHF Cup countdown – part 14: Finnish team Cocks have reached the group phase for the first time and do not just want to make up the numbers
Cocks’ participation a huge promotion for handball in Finland
After Finland’s men’s team booked their ticket to the second qualification phase of the EHF EURO 2018 in April 2016, domestic champions Cocks made an even more historic step for handball in Finland some months later.
By beating experienced Polish side Górnik Zabrze in Qualification Round 3, the team of head coach Gintaras Savukynas advanced to the EHF Cup Group Phase as the first Finnish team.
The Cocks are quite an international team, with players from ten different nationalities taking to the court.
In 2016, they became champions for the eighth time already. In Group D they will face MT Melsungen from Germany, Helvetia Anaitasuna from Spain and S.L. Benfica from Portugal.
“As group phase debutants we already achieved much more in this competition than anybody expected from us before the start of the season,” says coach Savukynas.
“We will prepare seriously to be worthy opponents in every game and hope to gain a maximum of experience against clubs from such great handball nations as Germany, Spain and Portugal are.
“Participating in the group phase of the second strongest EHF club competition is a big honour, responsibility and great experience. I’m looking forward to it.”
Finnish international Andreas Rönnberg left before the season, but the squad was strengthened with players such as Tiago da Silva from Portugal and Aliaksandr Tsitou, a World Championship participant for Belarus.
Before this season, the Cocks’ biggest international successes had been quarter-final participations in the Challenge Cup in 2014 and 2015.
Hence, the step among the last 16 of the EHF Cup is huge.
“For every club from countries like Finland or Israel it is a great achievement to face those top clubs, but on the other hand it shows that everything is possible when people work hard and believe in what they are doing,” says Savukynas.
“Those EHF Cup matches will - without doubt - be a big promotion for handball in Finland.”
Qualification for the 2016/2017 EHF Cup Group Phase: Round 3: 30:19, 29:30 against Górnik Zabrze (POL)
Newcomers: Tiago da Silva (Horta), Aliaksandr Bachko (SKA Minsk), Aliaksandr Tsitou (Mogliov)
Left the club: Andreas Rönnberg (BK-46), Kristian Jansson (HIFK)
Coach: Gintaras Savukynas (since 2016)
Team captain: Antti Valo
Quarter-final: 2013/14, 2014/15
Finnish champions: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Finnish cup winners: 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
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