EHF Champions League Quarter Finals: Odds, Schedule, Streaming Links and Predictions

EHF CL Final Four Prediction: 3 French Teams and Vardar as a special wild card guest.  Because.  Because, if there’s an LNH Coupe de la Ligue being staged outside of France, I’ve just got to be there.

The Champions League Quarterfinals started yesterday with Flensburg hosting Montpellier, but I won’t give away the score.  For the handball purist this might well be the best two weekends of handball all year.  Best in the sense, that the two game aggregate format provides fans with a compelling narrative over the course of two games.  Don’t get me wrong, the Final Four is fun and there’s something to be said for a knockout tourney in a festival style setting.  But, for the purist the opportunity to see how each side handles the away leg provides an interesting dynamic.  As does, how each coach makes adjustments between match 1 and 2.

Oh, and I guess there’s something to be said for the World Championships and European Championship being pretty good too, but I’ll take professional club handball over national team handball.  Players that play with each other all season long trumps all star team competitions jammed into a two week period.  But, that probably has something to do with being an American.  (As if the Basketball World Championships can hold a candle to the NBA Playoffs; Why would one think handball was any different.)

First, for context here are the current odds and opening odds for each team to win the title.

Now a bit on each of the match ups.

Kielce – Paris S-G     Sat, 21 Apr 1600 CET    On Demand Video:
Paris S-G – Kielce     Sat, 28 Apr 1730 CET    On Demand Video:

Paris has been on a tear this year in the Champions League, but they’ve had some slips up in the French League which suggests some vulnerability.  Meanwhile, Kielce has been less than impressive and were given a free pass to the QF thanks to Rhein-Neckar’s decision to send their 2nd team to play the first leg in the Round of 16.  I can’t imagine Paris not making the Final Four.  But, then I didn’t think Skjern would knock out Veszpre either.

Kiel – Vardar    Sun, 22 Apr 1700 CET     On Demand Video:
Vardar – Kiel    Sun, 29 Apr 1700 CET     On Demand Video:

Defending Champions, Vardar, are the clear favorites here. Still, despite Kiel’s lackluster season one can envision them getting a solid win at home in the first leg.  And, by solid they probably need somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 goals to have a good chance in the return leg.  Further, with their chances in the HBL looking dire for a CL berth next season, maybe this 2 game series is “their season” now.  I know this sounds sacrilegious to any German fans, but maybe for once a CL game is more important than an HBL game.  And, who knows maybe Kiel could even pull off a Liverpool. (In 2005, Liverpool finished 5th in the EPL, but won the Champions League.  Faced with the prospect of the champion not being able to defend their title, they were given an exception to participate the following year.)

Nantes – Skjern    Sun, 22 Apr  1900 CET     On Demand Video:
Skjern – Nantes     Sun 29 Apr   1650 CET     On Demand Video:

A really strange pairing here for the right to go to the Final Four.  Could anyone have even imagined such a match just 2 years ago?  Still neither team is getting any respect as both sides are given the longest odds for winning the title.  I can see Skjern’s long odds, but Nantes should be given more credit.  I anticipate that they will get a convincing win at home in the first leg and probably will win the 2nd match as well in Denmark.  This undersized team plays a quick game that can surprise.  Yes, in my opinion, Nantes is the new Flensburg.

Flensburg – Montpellier    Wed, 18 Apr  1900 CET    On Demand Video:  Link  (Sorry, you may need this too:  Link)
Montpellier – Flensburg    Sun, 29 Apr   1900 CET     On Demand Video:

For me, the prospect of Flensburg playing Montpellier in a Champions League brings back fond memories of their epic clash in 2005.  A 14 goal win by Montpellier in the 1st leg, followed by 13 goal Flensburg in the 2nd leg.  And a crazy 9 meter goal with time expired for Montpellier to win on aggregate.  The greatest “almost comeback” in the history of sport.  (No, not just handball, but in the history of sport).

We can’t expect a similar thriller, but these two teams are evenly matched, but I’ll give the edge to Montpellier.  After all, if they took down Barcelona they can surely take down Flensburg,

Coupe de la Ligue in Cologne?

Yes, I’m predicting 3 French teams playing in Cologne with Vardar as the guest wild card entry.  Funny, with my planned trip to Cologne for the Final Four it will be my second opportunity to witness a Coupe de la Ligue played outside l’Hexagone.  I was in Miami in 2009 for the first French venture to another country.  Should be an interesting scene with a French invasion of Germany.   Well, at least that’s my prediction anyway.

Veszprem takes on Kiel (Which Screen Do You Prefer?)

Ljubomir Vranjes was the head coach at Flensburg for 7 years and earlier today headed back to Germany with his new team Veszprem for a key Champions League showdown with Flensburg’s former rival Kiel.

What screen do you get when you click on the link to watch?: Link


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Move Over Simonet, Sigurdsson is the New ESPN Sports Center Top 10 Handball King

Sigurdsson with the punch in goal vs Serbia

Last September, Montpellier’s Diego Simonet made the ESPN Sports Center Top 10 plays of the day with a nifty goal in a Champions League match vs Metalurg.  To date his goal has gotten 1.2M views on Instagram.  A nice viewership to be sure, but he’s now been eclipsed by Iceland’s Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson who’s only needed 21 hours to get 1.6M views for his 2nd chance punch in goal following a penalty shot vs Serbia at the European Championships.

Much like Simonet, Sigurdsson’s efforts has received thousands of comments along the lines of “what’s that sport”, “Is that something a PE teacher made up”, and “this should be on the Ocho” (A Dodgeball movie reference that poked fun at ESPN’s expanding family of networks).

I’m a little tired of beating the dead horse into a pulp, but what the heck, why not?  The lack of awareness the sport has in this problem isn’t just one problem among many the sport faces in this country.

IT IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM.

Fix this problem and all other problems will become easier to solve.  Nothing demonstrates this more than the thousands of comments that accompany this video.

To the EHF’s great credit every match of the ongoing Men’s European Championships are available for viewing, both live and on demand.  Further, they are high quality web streams with English language commentary.  For the dedicated handball fan it is truly a phenomenally great deal.  And, it’s 100% free.  How could I possibly complain?

Well, because the EHF and others don’t need to convince me and the other 300 or so super fans of the sport in the U.S.  They need to be laser focused on finding a way to turn that 300 into 3,000, then 30,000, then 300,000.  Seriously, 300 fans in the world’s biggest market?  How can that possibly be?  It’s a mind boggling small number for such a great sport.  And, nothing could fix that faster than decent TV exposure.

The Need to Find the Right TV Network Partner?

While a free video stream is pretty cool, potential new fans aren’t likely to accidentally type in www.ehfTV.com and get converted.  The way people watch sports is evolving, but TV is still king in 2018.  A good TV network partner can lead the potential new fan to the sport.  ESPN gave handball a freebie with exposure on its flagship show, Sports Center, but I doubt they also gave everyone a heads up on where to watch online.  (For sure they took down my post with a link to ehfTV.)  But, they sure would have if the matches were shown on one of their networks or even their online platform.  And, there likely would be more than just the occasional spectacular goal making the top 10.

For too long, not enough effort has been given by the EHF, IHF and others to find the right network.  Getting on TV in the U.S. was seen as something nice if it happened, but of minor importance.  And, then it seemed that any network would do.  How else to explain beIN Sports US, which currently has the U.S. TV rights for most of the major handball properties, but chooses not to broadcast on TV anymore.

There are, however, signs of change on the horizon.  The IHF has a new contract for the World Championships with MP&Silva so a new network could be showing that event next January.  And, the EHF is in the process of reviewing 4 bids for a mega ten year contract from 2020-2030.  I’ve been told that the U.S. market development is a big part of this review, so I’ve got some cautious optimism for the future.

Or, Maybe a TV Partner isn’t Needed?

But, then again while TV is king, maybe it won’t be much longer.  The way people watch sports is evolving at a pretty fast pace.  I, for one am pretty happy with ehfTV.  The NBC OTT platform in the 2016 Olympics was seriously awesome too.  All of the major networks have OTT platforms and reportedly ESPN is upgrading their platform to address the drop in traditional cable TV viewers.  Maybe the partner won’t be a TV partner, but a digital streaming partner.

And, maybe you don’t even need a partner?  Perhaps with the right marketing campaign a dedicated handball online streaming platform could take off its own.  Seriously, my daughters watch “Youtubers” that make millions of dollars a year.  How are those less than awesome videos discovered?  Could a combination of social media and advertisement create a stand alone platform for the word’s handball community.

The Deadest Weekend of the Year:  Couldn’t Handball Replace Ice Fishing?

In the U.S., the NFL is king and there is a 2 week gap between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl.  The weekend between those 2 events is sometimes called the deadest sports weekend of the year.  Everyone is waiting for the big game and they’re not quite ready to shift their attention to basketball.  And, often that deadest weekend coincides with either the European Championship or World Championship Final.  One might think this would be an opportunity, but sadly it hasn’t in years past.  In 2012, I did this review of what was on every available sports channel in the U.S.  Yes, depressingly the NBC Sports Network had an Ice Fishing showing on.  Ice Fishing! And, yes I’ve actually been ice fishing.  Boring to do. Mind boggling boring to watch.

Here’s hoping that next year around this time we’ll be celebrating a World Championship Final on a major U.S. Network.  It has to happen sooner or later.  I suggest sooner is the better option.

2018 European Championships Odds, Analysis and Notes

France vs Norway:  A rematch of the World Championships Final on Day 1.  What a way to start the European Championships.

The 2018 European Championships start today and as usual France are the established favorites for this major tournament.  They are closely followed by hosts Croatia and Olympic Champions, Denmark.  Further down the list are Spain, defending champions Germany and World Championship runners up, Norway.

2018 European Championships Odds (Courtesy of Best Betting)

Nation Odds
France 2.25 to 1
Croatia 3 to 1
Denmark 4.25 to 1
Spain 8 to 1
Germany 9 to 1
Norway 14 to 1
Sweden 25 to 1
Slovenia 40 to 1
Hungary 50 to 1
Serbia 100 to 1
Macedonia 200 to 1
Iceland 225 to 1
Belarus 500 to 1
Czech Rep 500 to 1
Austria 1000 to 1
Montenegro 1000 to 1

Analysis

The EHF website has a nice preview article on each nation participating.
EHF “Countdown” articles on each nation: Link

The Stregspiller Website has several good interview and previews of the tournament and the chances of the top teams

Sascha Staat on Germany:  Link
Kevin Domas on France: Link
Peter Bruun’s Overall Preview:  Link

Peter Bruun’s summary is excellent and I pretty much concur with all of his analysis.  In particular, the following:

“Still, France possesses sufficient power and quality to be my top pick for winning the title.  However, much will depend on the performance of Nikola Karabatic – more so now than ever before. France with or without their charismatic leader is a very different team, and if Karabatic can’t deliver, “Les Bleus” won’t even reach the semi-finals.”

Recently, I was amused somewhat about twitter postings regarding possible MVPs and key players for the tournament.  Amused in that there wasn’t much talk about Karabatic, who I still think is the best player in the world.  (Probably, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) as well, but, that’s fodder for a longer commentary).  And, for sure, shepherding this talented, but relatively inexperienced team to a title as a 33 year old veteran would be a big legacy statement.  But, then again flaming out in the Main Round would also make a statement.

I’m a little bit less enamored with Croatia despite being the host.  As with France and Karabatic much of Croatia’s success hinges on Domagoj Duvnjak.  Reportedly, he’s back in fine form after being out for several months due to injury, but I will need to see that with my own eyes in a non-friendly match to believe it.  Perhaps they can still be willed into the semifinals as the host nation regardless, but I have my doubts.  Looking to the Main Round the would be Norway-Croatia match might be pivotal for advancement

In Groups C and D, I think Denmark and Germany are pretty clear favorites and it wouldn’t surprise me if they both end up with unblemished records, excepting of course their head to head matchup.  Spain could surprise, but I don’t think any of the other teams have the personnel to match up with them.

For the Final Four.  I’ll go with France beating Germany in one semi and Denmark beating Norway in the other.  And, then France getting revenge over Denmark in the Final.

Gotta Love the Format

Personally, I wax and wane as to whether the Preliminary/Knock out stage or Preliminary/Main Round format is better.  There’s a lot of drama in a Round of 16, but, this European Championship sure makes a strong case for the latter.  Day 1 and we’ve got a rematch of the WC Final between Norway and France.  A match that could very well put the loser on the cusp of not making the semifinals.  Wow, talk about a riveting way to start out the tourney!

EHF Stepping Up their Game on the Media Side:  Link

Well, I’ll jump the gun a bit and assume that the EHF will not have any geoblocking of the championship like 2 years ago.  Hopefully, a good assumption.  Every match should be available at ehfTV live and on demand.  Viewers in the U.S. should get their “boss key” working as pretty much every day for the next 2 weeks will have 3 or 4 matches available for viewing around Mid-day depending on your time zone.

Further, it looks like they will have a daily show with highlights and interviews which should be an outstanding way to catch up on the competition and get fired up for the upcoming matches.  They will also be live tweeting conversations and Snap Chat.

 

USA – Argentina Friendly Match Available Live on Direct TV, Fubo TV and Roku

Tonight’s USA-Argentina match can be seen on U.S. TV

The USA Women are in Argentina for the 2017 Women’s Pan American Handball Championships.  The actual tournament doesn’t start until Sunday, but they are playing friendly matches in preparation.  Tonight they have a tall order as they take on Tournament hosts Argentina at 2100 hrs (local) and 20:00 hrs (ET in the U.S).  The U.S. played the Argentina Junior Team to a 27-27 draw earlier in the week, so surely the Sr team will offer stiffer competition.  And, as this could be a potential tournament semifinal Argentina may very well want to send a message to the U.S. side.

The match will be broadcast live by Argentina sports channel TyC which in our ever more connected world is actually available in the U.S.   Here are your viewing options:

Direct TV:  If you have Direct TV (and an international package) you can watch the match on Channel #469.

Fubo TV:   Fubo TV is a digital streaming platform perhaps best known for soccer, but it’s also now rapidly becoming the best option for handball fans in the U.S. as it also carries beIN Sports and Eleven Sports.  And, not just the beIN sports TV channels, but their digital channels as well, which was the only way to watch the IHF World Championships and EHF Champions League live in the U.S.  Eleven Sports is another newcomer on the scene and they’ve already signed up to broadcast the European Handball Championships later this month.

Roku / Amazon Fire / Apple TV:  Another benefit of Fubo TV is that it can also watch it on TV via your connected device (e.g. Roku).  This can be done by first adding the Fubo TV channel to your Roku and then logging in with your Fubo TV account information.  (It took me a couple of minutes so you don’t want to wait till match time.)

Fubo TV offers a free 7 day trial so it won’t cost you to see how well it works with your computer and/or TV.

Fubo TV Trial sign up: Link

VIDEO:  2018 Men’s Euro Qualification

 

It’s often the case that qualification for major tournaments in Europe follow a set pattern.  The favorites secure qualification easily and occasionally there’s a halfway interesting match between a couple of teams that are on the fringes of qualifying.

Not so this time around for the 2018 Men’s European Championships Qualification as they head into the final two rounds of matches.  Ridiculously, out of the 28 teams participating in 7 groups of 4, only 3 nations (Spain, Germany and Sweden) have secured qualification and only 1 nation (Latvia) has been eliminated.  Sure, I’ll be shocked if France and Denmark don’t qualify, but they may be joined by some unlikely nations like Portugal, Lithuania and the Netherlands.  While mainstays of major competitions like Iceland, Russia and Poland are on the precipice of elimination.

The good news is that you can see some of these matches on ehfTV.  (I wish there were more, but I won’t complain).  Below is a summary of what’s at stake heading into each match.  As we head into the summer time doldrums, you might want to hold onto these viewing opportunities.  I will put the Full Match On Demand link from ehfTV, so as long as you avoid scores you watch and enjoy on into July and August.

ehfTV: Link

2018 Men’s European Championships Qualification (Wikipedia): Link

Wednesday, 14 June
Group 4: Czech Republic vs Iceland, 1810 CET

Group 4 has seen no favorite emerge and all 4 teams (Czech Republic, Macedonia, Iceland, Ukraine) in the group are level on points with 4 each.  Every game in the group has been won by the home side so far and the Czech Republic is in first place with a GD of +10, while Iceland is in 3rd with a GD of -5.  So a loss here won’t eliminate either team, but Iceland has more to worry with its current negative goal deficit.

Wednesday 14 June
Group 6: Slovakia vs Russia, 2000 CET

Slovakia and Russia are level on points with 2 each, right behind 2nd place Montenegro with 4 points.  Sweden is leading the group with 8 points and is assured of qualification.  It’s pretty much a must win game for both Slovakia and Russia and the winner will likely be level on points with Montenegro heading into their final match this weekend.

Thursday, 15 June
Group 2: Romania vs Belarus, 1800 CET

Belarus is in 2nd place with 5 points and Romania is in 3rd place with 4 points.  This is virtually a “must win” for Romania as a loss here could eliminate them from qualification.  Belarus will also want a win as Romania will leapfrog them in the standing and they face group leaders Serbia in their final match.

A Plethora of Handball Web Streaming Options This Weekend

The U.S. College Championships is just one of your handball viewing options this weekend.

The U.S. College Championships is just one of your handball viewing options this weekend.

Well, it’s often feast or famine for fans in the U.S. wanting to watch handball on TV.   Consider this to be a weekend to pig out big time, even if you have to plug in an HDMI cable to your TV.  Here are your handball options:

USA College Nationals

The Men’s and Women’s college nationals are taking place this weekend at the University of North Carolina and matches will be streamed all day on Saturday and Sunday and can either be watched on the USA Team Handball website or Facebook page.  Note:  If you’re watching on the Facebook page you will need to reclick on the live link for each game

USA Team Handball Page: Link

USA Team Handball Facebook Page: Link

Panamerican Youth Handball Championships

The final day of competition is on Saturday and the U.S. will play its final match vs Puerto Rico at 1000 EDST.  Placing matches continue throughout the day culminating with the Gold Medal match between Brazil and Argentina at 1800 EDST

Live Stream: Link

Champions League Quarterfinals

In my opinion, the best 2 weekends in handball are the quarterfinal matches of the EHF Champions League.  The first 4 matches are this weekend, 2 games on Saturday and 2 on Sunday

Saturday
Veszprem vs Montpellier 1130 EDST
Flensburg vs Vardar 1130 EDST

Sunday
Szeged vs Paris 1100 EDST
Kiel vs Barcelona 1130 EDST

Matches can be seen live at ehfTV:  Link

I will post “on demand” links to the matches above after they are posted on the ehfTV website.  Usually a couple of hours after the match.

SEHA and German Cup Final 4:  6 Matches Worth Watching on ehfTV

SEHA, rhymes with Hee-Haw, but this league is no joke. Watch the Final Four on ehfTV this weekend.

SEHA, rhymes with Hee-Haw, but this league is no joke.  In fact, it’s arguably the second best league in Europe.  You can see for yourself. Watch the SEHA Final Four on ehfTV this weekend.

Normally, when one thinks of ehfTV, one thinks of the EHF Champions League.  If you enjoyed the Round of 16 the past two weeks like me you may be a little bummed that it is a 2 week wait to the quarterfinals.  Furthermore, if you are an American are suffering from NCAA Final Four withdrawal, I’ve got some good news for you as ehfTV will be showing not 1, but 2 Final Fours this weekend as both the  Southeast Handball Association (SEHA) League and German Cup Finals will be available on ehfTV.

The SEHA League will be playing their semifinals on Friday with Vardar taking on Zagreb and Final Four hosts, Meskov Brest taking on Veszprem.  The SEHA League has only been around for 6 years, but it is quietly establishing itself as one of the best leagues in Europe.  Featuring teams from the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Hungary and Belarus, it can be viewed as a regional champions league.  Not that it’s clubs don’t already play in the Champions League.  In fact, the four finalists all made the Champions League Round of 16 and 2 clubs, Veszprem and Vardar are still in the tournament and could make that Final Four as well.

The German Cup semis will be on Saturday.  Leipzig will play Kiel in the first semi while Rhein Neckar Lowen will play Flensburg in the other semi.  Kiel, RNL and Flensburg are well known sides from Champions League play while Leipzig is a team from the 2nd tier of the HBL.  It will be interesting to see whether they can spring the upset of Kiel.  I for one, though, wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch of the R16 contest between Kiel and RNL in the final

Schedule (All times EDST)

SEHA

Friday, 1130 Vardar vs Zagreb Video
Friday, 1400 Brest vs Veszprem Video
Sunday, 1130 3rd Place Match Video
Sunday, 1400 1st Place Match Video

German Cup

Saturday, 0830 Leipzig vs Kiel Video
Saturday, 1130 RNL vs Flensburg Video
Sunday, 0830 1st Place Match Video (Note: If you don’t want to know who wins cover the picture with a sheet of paper.  THANKS A LOT ehfTV)

Note:  Sometimes the live stream is geo blocked in the U.S., but the on demand video typically shows up a couple of hours after the match.  I will try to provide a direct link to the on demand video for each match on this page when it is available.

If the link isn’t avilable here you can search for the video at ehfTV.  If you’re like me and don’t want to know the final outcome of the match follow these tips

  • Go to the ehfTV website: Link ehftv.com
  • Scroll down until you get to the menu that starts with “Latest Video”
  • Click on “Full Matches”
  • Wait a bit for your screen to load and then scroll down. If the match you want to see is available it should show up on this page  (and hopefully, there isn’t a picture of someone holding a trophy, or A GERMAN TEAM CELEBRATING.  THANKS YET AGAIN, ehfTV!!!! –SARCASM, FULLY INTENDED—)

Live Video and Audio Links: USA vs Chile 3rd Place Match

Team USA celebrating their Group Play win over Chile.  The 2 teams meet again tonight to determine which nation will go to the World Championships.

Team USA celebrating their Group Play win over Chile. The 2 teams meet again tonight to determine which nation will go to the World Championships.

Team USA will take on Chile today for bronze and more importantly qualification for the Jr World Championships this summer in Algeria.  These two teams met in Group Play with the USA coming away with a 31-24 victory.  Both teams later qualified for the semifinals with the USA scoring a 25-23 victory over Uruguay while Chile dispatched tournament hosts Paraguay 36-24.  And, in the semifinals both teams lost by lopsided margins.  The USA lost to Argentina 31-22 while Chile was crushed by gold medal favorite Brazil, 30-11.

But, of course, all those results mean very little now.  It all comes down to this match for the USA and Chile.  The winner punches a ticket for the World Championships.  The loser starts preparing for 2019.

The Panamerican Handball Federation has been providing a video stream of all the action from Paraguay and tonight I am planning to provide some live audio commentary via the Mixlr website.  Feel free to listen in and provide your own comments/questions via the Mixlr chatroom or via twitter.

Live Video Feed: Link

Live Audio Commentary: Link

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VIDEO: Champions League Group Play (Week 7)

Mads Mensah Larsen:  Not your typical Danish Centerback.  Can he orchestrate an upset over Flensburg?

Mads Mensah Larsen: Not your typical Danish Centerback. Can he orchestrate an upset over Flensburg?

Handball fans have one more weekend of Champions League handball before a long dry spell starts.  With the Christmas break and the European Championships taking place Week 8 won’t start until February.  With 6 weeks in the books it’s pretty clear for the most part which 16 teams will advance to the knockout stages.

One exception, however, is this week’s Match of the Week between Celje and Zagreb as both sides are tied for 4th place in Group A.   Zagreb won their first meeting, but Celje is a 2.5 goal favorite this Saturday in Slovenia.  While neither of these two sides have a chance of  making it to the final four this should be an evenly matched game between two sides seeking a ticket to the knockout rounds.  The match will also include Tom Ó Brannagáin’s English language commentary.

Celje vs. Zagreb (Saturday,30 Nov 2030 CET/1430 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

(Note to U.S. residents:  After a two week break beIN Sport will be rebroadcasting the Match of the Week on Wednesday, 4 December, 1700 U.S. Eastern Time)

There are a couple of other matches worth watching.  In Denmark, Aalborg will host Flensburg in a match that could end up deciding who gets 2nd place in Group.  Flensburg were able to turn the tables late in the match against Hamburg last week to strengthen their hold on 2nd place, but an away loss to Aalborg will drop them down to 3rd place.  Flensburg won the first match between the two sides 31-27 but might have a little more trouble winning at Aalborg.  Aalborg is led in scoring by the atypical Mads Mensah Larsen, who’s having a breakout season.  Atypical for two reasons: he’s a Dane of African descent and more bulky and compact then your typical centerback.  ehfTV has a nice Inside the Game feature on him:  Link

Aalborg vs Flensburg (Sunday, 1 Dec 1600 CET/1000 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

The final, maybe interesting match to watch could be Minsk vs Paris.  I say “maybe” because on paper Paris should have no problem with Minsk.  But, Paris has been known so far this season to play down to the level of their competition.  Paris won the first meeting between these two sides, 34-30, but the match was tightly contested until the very end.  With the match in Belarus, Minsk could very well surprise again.

Minsk vs Paris (Sunday, 1 Dec 1700 CET/1100 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

I will replace the live video links with on demand video links when they are available at the ehfTV website.  If you go to the ehf website yourself click on the side arrows to get to the “Full Match” page.  A word of caution, however, the EHF sometimes posts match interviews with revealing titles like “Jicha scores the decisive goal,” so you might want to use a sheet of paper to mask the screen if you want to watch the matches oblivious to the outcome.

ehfTV Page: Link
EHF Week 6 Preview:  Link (A written summary by Bjoen Pazen previewing all 12 matches): Link
Tom Ó Brannagáin’s latest blog post: Link

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VIDEO: Champions League Group Play (Week 6)

Vardar and Metalurg meet again in a Macedonian showdown.

Vardar and Metalurg meet again in a Macedonian showdown.

Week 6 of the Champions League is very much a rerun of Week 5.  This is because the same teams that played in week 5 will play each other again.  Only this time the matches will be played at the other team’s home court.  Since Skopje’s two club sides (Vardar and Metalurg) both play their matches in the same venue this week’s “Match of the Week” is even more of a deja vu event.  Last week Vardar was clearly the better team and Metalurg will need a much better performance if they don’t want to slip into 5th place in Group B.  Sunday’s match in Skopje includes Tom Ó Brannagáin’s English language commentary.

Vardar vs Metalurg (Sunday, 24 Nov 1800 CET/1200 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

(Note to U.S. residents:  beIN Sport, the U.S. TV rights holder has apparently made a programming decision to not broadcast the Champions League this week.  If you want to watch the match you’ll need to do so online at ehfTV.)

The other matches worth watching are again the same as last week’s.  The all German derby moves this week to Flensburg.  Last week Hamburg was clearly the better side winning 32-27 and the win put Hamburg 3 points up on Flensburg in the standings for Group D.  Even with a win tonight (Thursday) Flensburg will still be down a point due to their earlier draw against Naturhouse La Rioja.  But, perhaps Flensburg better be more concerned with simply holding on to second place.  Another loss to Hamburg could very well slip them into 3rd place behind Denmark’s Aalborg.  And with Flensburg travelling to Aalborg next weekend they could face a must win situation there to avoid a challenging Round of 16 opponent.

Flensburg vs. Hamburg (Thursday, 21 Nov 1900 CET/1300 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

The third interesting match will be Kolding’s visit to Kielce on Sunday.  Last week I postulated that if either Kiel or Kielce was going to slip up in Group B it would be on the road at Kolding.  And slip up Kielce did, losing 29-24.  Now a more confident Kolding side will try beating Kielce again this time in a far more difficult setting in Kielce.  One would think that Kielce will take care of business at home, but it will be interesting to see what happens.  And, if you’re a Kolding fan you might even start thinking bigger.  A win at Kielce would put Kolding in the driver’s seat to win the Group.

Kielce vs Kolding (Sunday, 24 Nov 1700 CET/1100 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

I will replace the live video links with on demand video links when they are available at the ehfTV website.  If you go to the ehf website yourself click on the side arrows to get to the “Full Match” page.  A word of caution, however, the EHF sometimes posts match interviews with revealing titles like “Jicha scores the decisive goal,” so you might want to use a sheet of paper to mask the screen if you want to watch the matches oblivious to the outcome.

ehfTV Page: Link
EHF Week 6 Preview:  Link (A written summary by Bjoen Pazen previewing all 12 matches)
Tom Ó Brannagáin’s latest blog post: Link
Audio of Tom Ó Brannagáin’s interview with Pascal Hens and Hans Lindbergh: Link

 

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VIDEO/AUDIO: Metalurg vs Vardar

Cross town rivals Metalurg and Vardar meet in Champions League showdown

Cross town rivals Metalurg and Vardar meet in a Champions League showdown

This past Thursday night Skopje, Macedonian clubs Vardar and Metalurg fought for city bragging rights in a key Champions League showdown.  Always a tough place to play for visitors, this time around it’s a home match for both sides.  The video for the match is courtesy of ehfTV and my audio commentary is in the MP3 files below.

The first half segment has a synchronization count at 5:00 on the ehfTV clock in the lower left hand of the screen. Start the video and pause it at 5:00. Then open the MP3 file and when I start my synchronization count unpause the video.

For the 2nd half my synchronization count starts at 50:00

Metalurg vs. Vardar Video: Link

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VIDEO: Champions League Group Play (Week 5)

Flensburg beat Hamburg at home last Sunday 31-29.  Will Flensburg return the favor this Saturday in a Champions League showdown?

Flensburg beat Hamburg at home last Sunday 31-29. Will Flensburg return the favor this Saturday in a Champions League showdown?

After a 3 week break the Champions League is now back for 3 consecutive weeks. This week’s “Match of the Week” has two top German sides (Flensburg and Hamburg) facing off in a derby to decide who will sit at the top of the standings in Group D. Hamburg currently lead the group with an unblemished 4-0-0 record while Flensburg is a point behind due to their draw in week 4 against Naturhouse La Rioja. Separated by 100 miles these two sides know each other very well. In fact, last year by some quirks in scheduling they ended up playing each other 7 times. So far this year, they’ve only met once with Flensburg beating Hamburg 31-29 last Sunday in an HBL matchup. Saturday’s match is in Hamburg and includes Tom Ó Brannagáin’s English language commentary.

Hamburg vs. Flensburg (Saturday, 16 Nov 1445 CET/0845 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

If you can’t catch the match live it will also be available later “on demand”.   (Note to U.S. residents:  It appears that beIN Sports, the U.S. TV rights holder, has decided to not broadcast this week’s Match of the Week.)

The other big match of the week is a showdown derby Thursday night in Macedonia, between Skopje’s Vardar and Metalurg clubs. Both sides have shown their worthiness in the Champions League this season as neither Barca or Paris were able to travel to Skopje and leave with a victory. This time around, however, there will be no overwhelming home crowd as both clubs will be represented at the Boris Trajkovski Arena. (Currently, I’m planning to do an audio commentary that you can synch up with the video and that will likely be available Friday morning.)

Metalurg vs Vardar (Thursday, 14 Nov 2000 CET/1400 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

The one other match I’ll be checking out this weekend is Kolding vs. Kielce on Sunday. Thanks to their victory in week 4 over Kiel, Poland’s Kielce is all alone in first place in Group B. In all likelihood, the winner of the Group will come down to the second Kiel-Kielce showdown, but if either of those two slides is going to slip up, the most likely place they’ll do so is their away match at Denmark’s Kolding.

Kolding vs Kielce (Sunday, 17 Nov 1700 CET/1100 U.S. Eastern Time)
Video: Link

I will replace the live video links with on demand video links when they are available at the ehfTV website. If you go to the ehf website yourself click on the side arrows to get to the “Full Match” page. A word of caution, however, the EHF sometimes posts match interviews with revealing titles like “Jicha scores the decisive goal,” so you might want to use a sheet of paper to mask the screen if you want to watch the matches obliious to the outcome.

ehfTV Page: Link

EHF Week 5 Preview: Link (A written summary by Bjoen Pazen previewing all 12 matches)

Tom Ó Brannagáin’s latest blog post: Link