20210726 Dinamo 2000Px
EHF Champions League

A new dawn for the Red Dogs

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EHF / Adrian Costeiu

It starts with a thought. “What if…” is one of the most common questions in English, but one that can be a tough pill to swallow if the answer is negative.

But brave as they are, Dinamo aimed high and landed one of the most head-scratching transfers in recent memory, as Spanish coach Xavi Pascual left Barça to coach the Romanian champions.

It was a big statement for Dinamo, who are back with a bang in the EHF Champions League Men and hoping to make their fans proud against the European powerhouses that will visit the Romanian capital in the next months.

Main facts

  • Dinamo are back in the EHF Champions League Men after a one-year hiatus, when they played in the group phase of the EHF European League Men
  • the Romanian side have a superb home record in the Champions League, dropping only one game from the last 12 and winning the other 11
  • a core of experienced players has been retained as Dinamo bring in eight new players and release seven
  • among the most notable newcomers are three-times Champions League winner Cedric Sorhaindo and German left back Christian Dissinger
  • Xavi Pascual, after leading Barça to the Champions League title last season, is Dinamo’s new coach, replacing Constantin Stefan

Most important question: How will Xavi Pascual thrive in another environment?

Three days after winning the Champions League, his 61st trophy with Barça, Xavi Pascual was presented at Dinamo Bucuresti, only the third team he will manage in his career, after the Spanish giants and the Romanian men’s national team, between 2016 and 2018.

Pascual has been a driving force for Barça’s ambitions in the past 12 years, but he called it quits on a high and now embarks on a totally different challenge. Dinamo are a powerhouse in Romania, but they are not established on the European scene, despite a superb effort two years ago in the EHF Champions League Men, when they went undefeated in the group phase.

Last season, however, they failed to progress from the group phase in the EHF European League Men, but their ambitions are still high.

Ushering in experienced players like Cedric Sorhaindo and Christian Dissinger would have been considered madness five years ago at Dinamo, but bringing these experienced players into the roster, as well as Pascual on the bench, underline Dinamo’s ambitions for the next seasons.

But can the Spanish ace deploy his superb attacking tactics in a team that is not as talented as Barça?

Under the spotlight: Cedric Sorhaindo

His medal record is astonishing, being a core part of the France team which won all available trophies in the last decade. A four-time world champion, two-time European champion and a winner at the Olympic Games at London 2012, Sorhaindo is a leader and, at 37, was brought to Dinamo to instill the culture and panache that every winning team needs.

A defensive specialist, who also won three EHF Champions League Men titles and 11 champions titles with Barça, Sorhaindo will be crucial for Dinamo’s development in the next months.

How do they rate themselves?

“I will not make the promise to win the EHF Champions League Men, but I what I can promise you is that we will work hard, very hard, to be the best we can be,” said new coach, Xavi Pascual, when he was presented at Dinamo.

His appointment marks a new dawn for the Romanian side, who have been at the periphery of challenging for greatness but fell short time after time. It does look like Dinamo have big ambitions, yet the group they were drawn in surely served as a wake-up call, with the European powerhouses they are facing signaling a huge challenge ahead.

But with an experienced side, an impressive back line and the know-how brought by defensive enforcer Cedric Sorhaindo, Dinamo can be a dark horse, especially at home, where the fans make it unbearable for the opponents.

Did you know?

Dinamo’s fans are renowned in Europe for wearing the heart on their sleeve and one will usually see a red dog either on the player shirts or on the scarves the fans bring to the games. A club founded in 1948, Dinamo have a huge history behind them in all sports and their nickname of ‘Red Dogs’ came from their never-say-die attitude on the court or on the pitch, in case of the football team. It was embraced by everybody, players and fans alike, and even the club’s anthem states: “Make way for the red dogs.”

What the numbers say?

Eight different nationalities are represented in the squad, including players from four different continents. Their new coach, Xavi Pascual, is used to coach players of different nationalities at Barça. There are only nine Romanian players in the squad, with three Tunisians, two Iranians, two Egyptians, and one player each from Spain, France, Germany, and Brazil completing the roster.

Arrivals and departures

Newcomers: Cedric Sorhaindo (Barça), Alex Pascual (Barça), Christian Dissinger (HC Vardar 1961), Dan Racotea (Bidasoa Irun), Kamel Alouini (Al Nasr), Ahmed Khairy (CSA Steaua Bucuresti), Raul Nantes (CSM Bucuresti), Robert Militaru (CSA Steaua Bucuresti), Calin Dedu (SCM Politehnica Timisoara)

Left the club: Ante Kuduz (HC Vardar 1961), Alexandru Asoltanei (CSM Bucuresti), Tudor Botea (CSM Bucuresti), Andras Szasz (CSM Bucuresti), Dragos Hantaru (CSA Steaua Bucuresti), Stefan Vujic (CS Minaur Baia Mare), Dan Savenco (retired), Rome Hebo (unknown), Jakov Vrankovic (unknown)

Past achievements

EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2021/22 season): 6
Last 16 (1): 2019/20
Group phase (4): 2005/06, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19

EHF European League:
Group phase (1): 2020/21

EHF Cup:
Semi-finals: 1 (2003/04)

Romanian league: 17 titles (1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1978, 1986, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021)
Romanian Cup: 6 titles (1979, 1982, 1988, 2017, 2020, 2021)

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