Danish teams in direct duel for quarter-final berth
The last quarter-final berth in the Men’s EHF Cup seems to become an entirely Danish affair on the last match day of the group phase this weekend.
As THW Kiel have already qualified for the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals, of which they are organisers, there will only be three quarter-finals.
This means that the worst second-place team in the four groups will not make it to the quarter-finals, and this team seems to be one of the Danish representatives, GOG or TTH Holstebro.
GOG are in the strongest position
Being on six points already, GOG have the strongest position. At least a draw away against Fraikin BM. Granollers on Sunday evening will send the current number two in the Danish league through to the quarter-finals.
If GOG lose, however, Holstebro will make the cut if they have won against Liberbank Cuenca in Group C on Saturday afternoon.
Before the last round, GOG’s goal difference is two better than Holstebro’s, while GOG have scored 10 goals more than their Danish rivals.
If GOG lose and Holstebro do not win, HC Dobrogea Sud Constanta can still reach the quarter-final in case of a win away against Group C winners FC Porto Sofarma Sunday evening.
Even in that case, however, the Romanian side will probably have to improve their goal difference considerably in order to make the cut.
"I realise that we will need some luck"
“We do not give much thought to what teams we are competing with for the last ticket, but of course, I hope for a Danish team in the quarter-final, and I would very much prefer it to be us. However, I realise that we will need some luck,” says Holstebro coach Patrick Westerholm, who is a bit annoyed that his team has brought itself in the current situation.
“Of course, it is that match in Cuenca (26:24 defeat) which is still hurting us. It was frustrating that we were not able to win that match,” Westerholm says. “We also had the chance to take a point or two at home against Porto, but we were not good enough in the deciding phase of that match. Now, we will simply have to focus on winning at home against Cuenca and see how far that gets us.”
The match between Holstebro and Cuenca is starting already at 13.00 hrs local time on Saturday, while the match between Granollers and GOG throws off only Sunday evening at 19.00 hrs.
So, even if Holstebro beat Cuenca, they will have to wait until next day’s evening to know their fate.
“That is the way it is. All we can do is our own job, and we are determined to finish the group phase well in front of our own spectators. If we succeed with that, we will simply have to wait and see what happens Sunday evening,” Westerholm says.
GOG are in a much more advantageous situation before the last match day than their fellow Danish side. They will know all relevant other results when they enter the court at Palau d´Esports de Granollers. Anyway, a draw will be enough regardless those other results.
GOG won the reverse fixture against Granollers 34:26 at home.
“However, that game did not draw the correct picture of the difference between the two teams,” says GOG coach Nikolej Krickau. “Granollers were missing several players due to injury. Those have become fit again, and we will be meeting a Granollers team in progress, and a Granollers team which play with plenty of enthusiasm, even though they cannot achieve anything in the competition anymore.”
Back at the top of Danish handball
The coach hopes to have Danish international Niclas Kirkeløkke back after a four-month injury break. The right back, who will be joining Rhein-Neckar Löwen after this season, sustained an ACL injury back in December and missed Denmark’s run to gold at the World Championship in January.
“We hope to make use of him to a certain extent. Reaching the quarter-final would really mean a lot to us, although we will probably not be favourites against any of the group winners we are going to meet,” Krickau says. “Still, a quarter-final in the EHF Cup would be further proof that we are back at the top of Danish handball.”Author: Peter Bruun / ew