Before this week’s semifinals of the Women’s Champions League, let us look at the four possible finals. Which one is more likely to satisfy the spectators?
1. Buducnost – Györ
This is the supreme final. The danger in such a match is the risk of collapse from either team. On Buducnost’s side, I fear that any difficulty with scoring from the 9m line could cause frustration and loss of concentration in defence. On Györ’s side, bad defence could allow fast goals from the pivots and the wings.
The interest in this match derives from the two contrasting ways of playing handball.
Buducnost holds nothing back, with its set-in-stone back court players, Popovic and Bulatovic. The only variation at the 9m line consists in the three playmakers they use. Knezevic has the sheer exuberance of her young age, the kind that makes her try exciting passes, but also unprepared shots – she gives a hint of “unexpected” to Buducnost. Radovic’s incisiveness has often been used against alternative defences. Finally, A. Bulatovic is mostly used against conventional 6:0 defences, in crossings culminating with her finding the gap and breaking through the defensive wall.
On the other hand, Györ does not function with pre-established players on each position. Their two playmakers cover the whole back court and can surprise with passes to the line player or unprepared shots, as they are both fully capable of scoring without even looking at the goal. The left handed Gros is not used, whereas Amorim can remain on the left back position during an entire match, in which space is left for her to take her jump.
The similarity in their two games is the way they play the wingers, with fly moves, passes across the defence and of course, fast breaks (la crème de la crème). The Hungarian fast break is often started by the goalkeeper. Alternately, it turns into 2nd phase attack, at which the players are better than the Montenegrins. The latter ones start the fast break from the 9m line, usually with Popovic or Bulatovic giving the long pass, hence the importance of having their captain on court, in defence.
2. Oltchim – Larvik
In case Oltchim does not throw away the miracle from Valcea, Larvik would be the opponent to go after. In my opinion, these two teams are at the moment, the most suitable for a balanced confrontation.
The danger in this final would be Oltchim’s trying to score from the 9m center line and Leganger taking everything with the help of her great defensive wall. As for Larvik, they could have problems scoring against Dinu and Tolnai with their wingers, in positional attack. Also, the pivot department could separate these teams, as Oltchim can defend on Blanco better than Larvik can defend on Manea.
This final would bring the joy of watching fast handball, with crossings and finishing from 6m. I think what makes these teams entertaining is speed, whereas the two other candidates have aesthetics on their side. Now, in live action, we all prefer speed, while the TV spectator will definitely choose beautiful passes and curved ball trajectories.
Both teams play with their heart, although Oltchim’s heart succumbs more often to excesses. Both teams use their wingers as main weapons, giving them various tasks in every sector of the game. With Luminita Dinu back, we are guaranteed to see a lot of across the court passes to the wingers, which is THE weapon to make use of in such a duel.
3. Larvik – Györ
The reason why these two last options are the less exciting ones is the Main Round. Could these matches end differently the second time around? Could the teams start from different grounds and target unconventional goals? No and no. Larvik is the victim of its own procreation, Heidi Løke. We should point out that Györ’s limited squad is the result of their own choice, whereas in Larvik’s case, the handicap of the short bench was out of their control. Buducnost and Oltchim have full squads of 19 players. This last point would be an important remark to make in case the fourth scenario comes true and Buducnost meets Oltchim in the final.
4. Oltchim – Buducnost
On this last possibility, there are not many things to say. At the moment, Buducnost is Oltchim’s strongest impediment, reminiscent of the Viborg 2009 /2010. For Buducnost, Oltchim’s goal is an easy target, defended by goalkeepers that cannot catch the balls coming from the Montenegrin back court players. A second revelation in Valcea, necessary for levelling the battle, is unlikely.