Siófok scrambling to regroup
At the start of this season, Siófok would have been considered solid favourites to claim the first European League Women title. However, plenty has changed in recent months for the 2019 EHF Cup winners – and not for the better.
- the last team to raise the EHF Cup trophy in 2019
- coach Bent Dahl and players such as Nerea Pena, Laura Van Der Heijden, Danick Snelder and Dinah Eckerle left the club mid-season
- Zdravko Zovko took over as coach to try steady the ship
- line player Katarina Jezic led Croatia to a sensational bronze medal at EHF EURO 2020
The burning question – how will they deal with the raft of departures?
A year which started with so much promise ended in a very different light for the ambitious club. The global health crisis meant last season’s Hungarian league was cancelled and with it, Siófok’s EHF Champions League dreams were dashed.
A new season full of promise soon turned sour as three defeats in a row led to coach Bent Dahl being shown the exit door, and high-profile players Nerea Pena, Laura Van Der Heijden, Danick Snelder, Dinah Eckerle soon followed.
This leaves new coach Zdravko Zovko with a much-weakened squad to work with. There are still a number of strong players in the team but their expectations for the European campaign will have to be tempered and hope they will be able to progress from a tricky group containing H.C. Dunarea Braila, Kuban and Fleury Loiret Handball.
The workhorse – Katarina Jezic
Since joining the club in 2016, the line player has become a vital cog in the Siofok wheel. The 28-year-old is known for her intensity, great work-ethic and leadership, all of which was shown in abundance at EHF EURO 2020 as she led Croatia to a stunning and heart-warming bronze medal.
Her ability to deliver what is needed of her in any situation will make her a key asset in this tough European season.
Big shooter – Andrea Kobetic
Another crucial Croatian player, Kobetic was originally set to retire last summer but reversed the decision, for which her club are undoubtedly grateful.
The 35-year-old left back has scored an astounding 523 times in European competition over the past six seasons, with Siófok and Vardar, and will be without doubt a fountain of goals in the group phase.
A night to remember
Siófok have enjoyed plenty of joy at this level in recent years, most notably winning the EHF Cup in 2019. There was a distinct Scandinavian flavour to their run to the final, facing two Danish sides, plus Norwegian and Swedish clubs, so facing Esbjerg in the final was only fitting.
A tense 21:21 draw in the first leg left the tie in the balance, though the Hungarian club held home advantage for the deciding game. Excellent goalkeeping from both Silje Solberg and Denisa Dedu helped keep Siófok’s noses in front, but a surge early in the second half, led by Estelle Nze Minko opened up a 21:14 lead which all but sealed the victory.
A 26:21 win on the night left the home fans and players at Kiss Szilard Sportcsarnok delighted with their first major title win.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Nikolett Kiss (Érd), Gabriella Tóth (Érd)
Departures: Andela Janjusevic (Buzau), Silje Solberg (Győr), Joanna Drabik (Lublin), Nerea Pena (Team Esbjeg), Laura Van Der Heijden (Borussia Dortmund), Danick Snelder (Bietigheim), Dinah Eckerle (Metz)
Winners (1): 2018/19
National league: -
National cup: -