04.01.2018, 20:46◄ last page     

ROUND PREVIEW: The group round of the Women's EHF Cup is scheduled to start with eight matches at the weekend.

EHF Group Phase gets underway in Gdynia

Sixteen teams from nine countries are set to compete in the group stage of the Women’s EHF Cup, in only the second season with this stage of the competition.

The opening match will be held on Friday 7 January in Gdynia, where the Polish champions are scheduled to face Byasen. Four games take place on Saturday and three further matches will complete the weekend program on Sunday.

·        Brest, Vipers, Gdynia and Larvik resume their European season in the EHF Cup after EHF Champions League exit
·        Only five teams – Randers, Kuban, Brest, Lada and Byasen – played in the EHF Cup Group Phase last season
·        Byasen are the only group phase participants to progress all the way from Qualification Round 1

Randers HK (DEN) vs Kuban (RUS)
Sunday 7 January, 19:30 hrs local time

Last season, Randers reached the EHF Cup quarter-finals, and now the team of coach Niels Agesen hope to advance from the group again. However, the Danish side have been drawn into a tough quartet, so one of their goals is to get more international experience.

Randers had a positive start to 2018 as they narrowly beat Ringkobing in the Danish league (21:20). Yet there is no time to relax as the schedule is extremely tight – Agesen’s team will play eight more games in January.

Now they are scheduled to face Kuban, whom Agesen sees as the group’s favourites. The team from Krasnodar started the current tournament in Qualification Round 2 where they brushed aside Serbia’s ZRK Medicinar before beating Astrakhanochka in an all-Russian duel in Round 3.

Compared to the previous season, Kuban’s squad have been rejuvenated, but the head coach is still the famous Evgeni Trefilov who kept his second job as the Russia national coach after a quarter-final exit at last month’s World Championship.

Other Group A match:
Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) vs CSM Craiova (ROU)
Sunday 7 January, 17:00 hrs local time

Handball Club Lada (RUS) vs Koebenhavn Haandbold (DEN)
Saturday 6 January, 16:00 hrs local time

Ambitious Lada were left disappointed last season after failing to reach even the quarter-finals. However, now the Russian club are ready to make up for that frustration.

The team from Togliatti has undergone many changes over the summer, yet they are still very competitive. Runners-up in the Russian league last season, they started 2018 on top of their domestic competition with 11 wins in 12 games. And in the EHF Cup, Lada had no problems beating France’s Besancon in qualification.

It was notably Lada who eliminated Koebenhavn in their previous international season – in the 2013/14 EHF Cup quarter-final. After that, the Danish team did not feature in European club competition for four years before making a comeback this season.

In qualification, Koebenhavn beat France’s Dijon and Hungary’s Dunaujvaros and they hope to continue this good run despite facing three tough opponents in Group B.

Other Group B match:
Vipers Kristiansand (NOR) vs Issy Paris Hand (FRA)
Saturday 6 January, 17:00 hrs local time

Vistal Gdynia (POL) vs Byasen Handball Elite (NOR)
Friday 5 January, 19:00 hrs local time

Playing their maiden season in the Women’s EHF Champions League turned out to be a tough lesson for the Polish champions. In the group with Bucuresti, Nykobing and Krim, they lost all their six matches and thus must continue in the EHF Cup.

In December, Gdynia changed their head coach as Agnieszka Truszynska was replaced by the experienced Ukrainian Giennadiy Kamelin. Adding to the turbulent times was the decision of team captain Malgorzata Gapska to retire midway through the season.

The opening group game will not be easy for the Polish team as their opponents do not hide their ambitions. Byasen narrowly missed promotion to the EHF Cup quarter-final last season and now they are eager to do better.

Byasen are the only team in the competition who made it from the first qualification round to the group phase, beating Poland’s Elblag, Belarus’ Gomel and Romania’s Braila. It should be also noted that their right wing Marit Jacobsen won a silver medal with Norway at December’s World Championship.

Other Group C match:
Viborg HK (DEN) vs Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK (TUR)
Saturday 6 January, 16:00 hrs local time

Larvik (NOR) vs H.C. Zalau (ROU)
Sunday 7 January, 17:00 hrs local time

Larvik are one of the two teams in the group phase, together with Viborg, who have won the EHF Champions League in the past. The Norwegian side are used to playing in the continental top flight, yet this season they finished last in their group and have to start from scratch in the EHF Cup.

Larvik’s squad have been rejuvenated in the recent years, so the head coach Tor Odvar Moen looks at the situation realistically. “Maybe the EHF Cup is the right place for us at the moment,” he says.

In this competition, the Norwegian side certainly have a chance to go quite far. It is important to have a good start, so Larvik hope to claim two home points from Zalau.

The Romanian team, who were the EHF Cup finalists in 2012, play on the European stage after a three-year break. On their way to the group stage, Zalau beat Turkey’s Ankara Yenimahalle and Austria’s Hypo.

They are currently just seventh in the Romanian league and are not among the favourites of EHF Cup, yet the team coached by the experienced Gheorghe Tadici will certainly strive to be competitive.

Other Group D match:
H 65 Höörs HK (SWE) vs DHK Banik Most (CZE)
Saturday 6 January, 15:00 hrs local time

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cor

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