25.05.2012: Close battle expected
Preview on the second semi-final: AG Kobenhavn vs. Atletico Madrid
Will AG Kobenhavn go all the way or can Atletico Madrid reach the final again only one year after renaming from BM Ciudad Real? If the Northern Europeans win the second semi-final of the VELUX EHF FINAL4 (18:00 hrs local time) they would write history, as never before a Danish team had been part of a final of the EHF Champions League. Atletico have the wider experience, as they were finalists already in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
All experts agree that the defence and the performances of the top scorers will be decisive in this expected close duel. On AG Kobenhavn side defence specialist Joachim Boldsen returned right before the VELUX EHF FINAL4 after an injury break, but the Danes have to replace their outstanding goalkeeper Steinar Ege, which means that the semi-final could be a solo for Kasper Hvidt between the goal bars.
Like in the opening duel Kiel vs. Berlin the goalkeepers will play a decisive role, with the duel of Hvidt against one of the strongest duos in the world: Arpad Sterbik and Jose Javier Hombrados. Sterbik has bad memories, as he was injured in the 2011 semi-final against Hamburg after only six minutes and was out for the rest of the tournament.
20.000 spectators will also attend the “sniper’s duel” of current World Handball player Mikkel (Kobenhavn) against Kiril Lazarov (Madrid), the all-time top scorer of single World and European Championship events.
Everybody says that the chance for winning is 50:50 for both – but Kobenhavn have shown in the quarterfinals that they can cope with the best Spanish teams by eliminating defending champions FC Barcelona Intersport – a result which impressed Madrid.
Atletico did not have such high hurdles on the way to Cologne after becoming winner of their group in the first stage of the competition: Kadetten Schaffhausen and Cimos Koper. But Madrid each lost one of the matches. But now all injured players except Mariusz Jurkiewicz have returned to the squad of Talant Dushebajew, the only VELUX EHF FINAL4 participant, who has won the “king’s class” as a player and a coach.
After rank three in 2010 and rand two in 2011 Dushebajew now hopes to raise the trophy for the fourth time in club history after 2006, 2008 and 2009 including players like best defence rock of the world, Didier Dinart who had been part of all finalists teams of Ciudad Real.
The match is a special one for Olafur Stefansson, as the AGK right back played at Ciudad Real for a long time and took three of four EHF Champions League trophies in his career with the Spaniards. If his team reach the final, he can even extend his personal record: No other player has scored more goals in EHF Champions League finals compared to the Icelandic, who hit the back of the net only in finals 96 times.