The opening ceremony inspired from the Harry Potter movies reminded us all that we were in the right place. Although a bit pompous, it was actually appropriate in this beautiful city, out of a medieval fairytale.
The first game day began with Gyor’s one-team-show. FCM was the second best team of the day and who knows what might have happened if they hadn’t met the title holder. Buducnost was in some respects well-prepared, defending the centre and the wings, running back in defence, getting the ball forward on counter and second phase. Neagu netted 6 goals from around 20 shots, and Popovic and Adzic were all hugs and kissed around her. After the 60 minutes buzzer, Adzic literally took her into his arms as if to say “You are my girl”.
Milena Knezevic came in at the end of the game and had a “talk” with Gyor’s supporters who were asking her to come take a photo. She avoided it, of course. I was thinking that maybe Buducnost had an advantage not having played Knezevic in the semi and that at least one player would be fresh the following day. Fresh, yes. But cool? Knezevic?
The atmosphere in the hall at Gyor’s game, was anything but torrid. The anti-cheering on the Buducnost-Vardar game made more of an impression on me.
The hall was half empty at the FCM – Vardar game. Rightly so, as it didn’t provide any excitement or suspense. Lekic’s technical prowess and Radicevic’s exhibitionism were reasons enough for me to be satisfied.
In theory, the final brought together the two best teams of the competition. It is very special to see these teams live and only now do I see the geometry that makes the team from Gyor superior to any other. Unlike ETO, Buducnost’s passes are mostly going sideways. Once their prime move is stopped, they can’t regain flow in the latter phase of their positional attack.
These are two different approaches of handball: a marriage of Spanish and Hungarian philosophies on one hand, the Balkan style on the other. ”Just keep going, just be patient, just wait for the best position and keep moving the ball”. It is only now that Ambros’ timeouts start to make sense to me. “Move the ball” means “keep a high pace and send the ball from left to right and back, be dangerous from all positions, confuse the opponent”. In the Balkan style of play, quick solutions are sought and patience is superfluous.
In was probably due to the early hour of the day or to the overconfidence, but there were no frenzy or shivers on the corridors of the Papp Laszlo Arena. Seen from the hall, the festivities of Gyor’s coronation were not the huge celebration I had expected either. I missed the folly and the melodrama of the past years. Gyor winning their first title was moving. Now, we have entered a whole other era, the era of domination, with fewer emotions, and more quality handball.
At 00:40, the ETO girls run over a photographer.
At 01:50, a coach comforting Neagu
At 02:05, the teams shake hands
At 03:50, Bulatovic salutes the Varvari
P.S. I haven’t watched the replay of the finals yet, but let me quote just one of O Brannagain’s bloopers from the semi-finals day: commenting on Petrovic taking a penalty “The courage… How old is she? She is (pause) 26. Well, she looks 16.” He had no idea who Radmila Petrovic was.
So that was all from Budapest. Thank you for reading!