“If you want the trophy, you must win twice”
The four teams competing at the inaugural EHF Finals Men 2021 on 22/23 May at SAP Arena in Mannheim can start their preparations.
Since the semi-final draw Tuesday morning, Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Füchse Berlin, SC Magdeburg and ORLEN Wisla Plock know which team they have to beat to get to the final of the EHF European League Men 2020/21.
Löwen take on Füchse in all-German clash
Hosts Löwen have been paired with Füchse.
“We host the event and we are among the best four teams of the competition. There is nothing more to say, other than we want to win this trophy, therefore we need two victories, starting with the semi-final against Füchse Berlin,” Löwen head coach Martin Schwalb said.
Schwalb once lost the EHF Cup final against Füchse, when he coached HSV in 2015 and the team from Berlin took their first of two victories in the European League’s predecessor.
Now Schalb can become the second coach to win both the EHF Champions League trophy (with HSV in 2013) and Europe’s second-tier competition, after Alfred Gislason completed the feat with THW Kiel.
Füchse are heading into their seventh finals tournament: after the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2012 followed five appearances at the EHF Cup Finals, including two title wins in 2015 and 2018.
“To face the hosts Löwen in the semi-final is definitely the toughest of all semi-final options. But if you want to win the trophy, you need to win twice on that weekend,” Füchse manager Bob Hanning said.
Magdeburg duel with Plock for final spot
SC Magdeburg are the only former EHF Champions League winners among the four participants and the club is in search of their first international trophy since 2007, when they raised the last of their EHF Cup trophies.
“Before the draw, I would have picked Plock as the team we want to play. Now we got this opponent, and I am happy,” Magdeburg head coach Bennet Wiegert said.
Wiegert was not just happy to avoid a German opponent in the semi-final, he also preferred to play foreign teams in a European competition.
“We have another flair when we face Plock,” Wiegert added.
Magdeburg racked up 10 straight wins and were the only team that won both quarter-final legs. Still, Wiegert didn’t think his team are the favourites.
“I have been a coach at six finals tournaments now and I know that really anything can happen in two days. Coming to the EHF Cup Finals 2017 in Göppingen, we had won 21 matches in a row and faced Göppingen in the semi-finals, a team that was down on the floor at that moment. But we lost the semi and they won the trophy,” Wiegert recalled.
For Magdeburg’s opponents, Plock, it will be special to face the German side: Many Polish players and a Polish coach have played crucial roles in Magdeburg’s club history, like coach Bogdan Wenta, Karol Bielecki, Bartosz Jurecki or Grzegorz Tkaczyk.
Currently, Polish international Piotr Chrapkowski plays for the three-time EHF Cup winners.
“The qualification to the finals tournament is not the end of our fight for success. Two matches remain, the semi-final and we hope - the final,” Plock sports director Adam Wisniewski said.
“We will face German teams that, at least in theory, surpass us in every respect. But we have our own ways to achieve success. We have already done a lot and we want even more.”
Semi-finals on 22 May, final on 23 May
The semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday 22 May, with the order of play to be announced in due time. The 3/4 placement match and the final take place on Sunday 23 May.