EHF European Cup 2017/18 - Article - The longer the beard, the better the team
20.04.2017, 07:44◄ last page     

FEATURE: SC Magdeburg hope to end their bad run of quarter-finals to make it to their first-ever LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals.

The longer the beard, the better the team

THW Kiel? SG Flensburg-Handewitt? Rhein-Neckar Löwen? No, no and no.

When searching for the strongest current German men’s handball team it is none of the traditional ‘big three’ - it is SC Magdeburg.

Taking into consideration results since the middle of November, the side of young head coach Bennet Wiegert is the clear number one men’s team in Germany currently. In 18 matches the 2002 Men’s EHF Champions League winners are unbeaten in both the Bundesliga and the Men's EHF Cup – where they picked up five wins and a draw to win their group.

Now they hope to book their first-ever ticket for the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals.

In 2013 and 2016, SC Magdeburg went that far before but had two unlucky draws. Twice they had to face a domestic rival in the quarter-finals, and in both cases Magdeburg failed against the eventual winners of the competition. Firstly in 2013, against Rhein-Neckar Löwen, and then in 2016 against Frisch Auf Göppingen.

This season the players and management were extremely happy when the 2016/17 group phase concluded as all four German participants topped their groups. Defending champions and first participants of the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals on 20-21 May, Frisch Auf Göppingen skipped the quarter-finals as hosts, Melsungen (against Saint-Raphael) and Berlin (against Tatabanya) could not be drawn as Magdeburg’s opponents - so now, the final hurdle for SCM ahead of the journey to Göppingen is Spanish club Anaitasuna.

“It could have been Saint-Raphael,” said coach Wiegert ahead of the first quarter-final leg on Sunday (23 April) at Pamplona. “We believe that Anaitasuna is the easier task for our ‘Mission Göppingen’ but they beat MT Melsungen in the group phase and are dangerous if you do not prepare well.”

“We want to make it to Göppingen,” said team manager Marc-Henrik Schmedt. “To do this we have to leave Anaitasuna behind and it is our advantage to have the crucial second leg on home ground.”

Magdeburg won the old version of the Men’s EHF Cup in 1999, 2001 and 2007 - so after 10 years without an international trophy, the most successful club from eastern Germany are out to make history again. After a shaky start this season, the 2016 German cup winners have put the pedal to the metal with the turning point of their season their biggest-ever home defeat in their long history as a club.

When Hannover-Burgdorf conquered them at the GETEC-Arena by 15 goals (37:22), the alarm bells started ringing and finally woke up the team.

Last Sunday (16 April), Magdeburg took revenge in the rematch at Hannover, winning 28:23, extending their incredible run to 17 unbeaten matches - including victories against Kiel and Löwen and a draw against Flensburg.

“I think, we are ready for Anaitasuna”, said Danish player Jakob Bagersted who, along with Dutch SCM team captain Fabian van Olphen, German EHF EURO champion Finn Lemke and former German international Yves Grafenhorst, will see a potential LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals in Göppingen as their final international highlight with the team as all four will leave the club after this season. “It would be incredible to finish my time here with an international trophy,” added Bagersted.

Like Austrian goal machine Robert Webert – the best Magdeburg scorer in the last decade - Bagersted currently is the symbol of Magdeburg’s successful series.

Looking a bit like US band ZZ Top, they have long beards - due to the old motto; who shaves, loses.

And both hope at least for two unshaved quarter-finals against Anaitasuna.

TEXT: Bjorn Pazen/amc

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