During the weekend ahead of us, eyes of all handball fans will be looking towards Lisbon, Portugal which will host this season’s EHF Finals Men 2022 tournament. Four teams that have managed to book a place for themselves on this prestigious tournament are German Magdeburg, Portuguese Benfica, Polish Wisla Plock and our SEHA – Gazprom League representatives, Croatian runners-up Nexe Nasice.
Final tournament comes as icing on the cake of one of the best seasons in Nexe’s history. It was, even before the season officially started, clear that coach Branko Tamse has a quality group of players available and they absolutely proved it out there on the court when it mattered the most.
‘’The best possible way to end a season is this final tournament where four best teams from European League will play. I think this is every athletes dream. We will do our best in Lisaboa. After a long season with many matches played, there wasn’t special preparation period for this weekend. We started the season in the qualification round and we were going match by match. This is the merit of the entire staff, team and club. We will do our best to present HC Nexe in the best possible way this weekend’’, said Marin Jelinic, Nexe left wing.
Nexe’s EHF European League path started in the Qualification Round 1 where they were with 28:23 and then 32:28 better than Polish Azoty. Qualification Round 2 brought them their first big challenge as they had to get past Danish Bjerringbro-Silkeborg in order to reach the group stage. In the first leg in Denmark coach Tamse and his guys suffered a tough 33:27 loss but they didn’t lose hope which proved to be crucial as they managed to defeat Danes 32:26 in Nasice advancing through to the group stage in a match which their captain Sasa Barisic Jaman characterized as the turning point of the season and a moment in which they realized they can do a lot.
Group stage brought them duels against Swedish Sävehof, Slovenian Gorenje Velenje, Spanish La Rioja and French PAUC as well as German Magdeburg – team they will face in the semi-final in Lisbon. And while Germans were in the group stage better than Nexe both home and away, Croatian vice-champions managed to finish the group in third place – behind Magdeburg and Sävehof but ahead of Gorenje, La Rioja and PAUC.
In the Last 16 phase it was time for them to face SEHA – Gazprom League rivals, coach Zeljko Babic and his Eurofarm Pelister. With two narrow, hard-fought victories (29:26 and 22:21), Nexe managed to reach the final step before the trip to Portugal – quarter-finals and duel versus Danish GOG. Nasice ‘Thunders’ took care of everything in the first match securing a big 32:27 win which proved to be enough for them with GOG failing to cut that lead in Denmark (37:37). Halil Jaganjac was leading Nexe all the way from the beginning of the season but we must highlight his quarter-finals performance as he scored 20 goals in two matches proving to be the best when it matters the most.
‘’This is a huge success for the club and for me personally. Basically, this is the biggest success in the club’s history. For may years, Croatian clubs didn’t participate at the final tournaments in the Europe, so we have to be proud of ourselves. The season was very turbulent and difficult and we played a lot of matches, but I think that we did great. We hope to play great this weekend as well. I see these two matches as the crown on this journey and in my opinion, it could not be a better end’’, those were the words of Nexe left back, Halil Jaganjac who will play for Rhein-Neckar Lowen from the next season.
On Saturday, Nexe will face Magdeburg in what will be their third match this season with Wisla Plock and Benfica facing off in the second semi-final.
28 May, 16:00 CEST Magdeburg – Nexe Nasice
28 May, 18:30 CEST Wisla Plock – Benfica