Can PPD Zagreb end Telekom Veszprem’s series in Zadar?
After their close final defeat in 2021, PPD Zagreb hopes for a better outcome on Sunday against the four-times winners.
It is the expected final of the SEHA Final 4 2022 – and it is the same duel for the trophy as last year at the same place, the Kresimir Cosic Hall in Zadar, Croatia: Both favourites – defending champions Telekom Veszprem and PPD Zagreb – won their semi-finals on Friday in a clear way and demonstrates their high level. Veszprem scored a record-breaking 41:27 victory against Eurofarm Pelister, while PPD Zagreb left Nexe behind by 32:26. Despite their favourite role, Veszprem’s coach Momir Ilic and his players have huge respect for the Croatian record champions.
Sunday, 4 September, 19:00 CEST:
final match: PPD Zagreb vs Telekom Veszprem
Can Telekom Veszprem catch up to record winners Vardar 1961, or will PPD Zagreb end their nine-years long wait for their second trophy in the SEHA – Gazprom League? This is the main question before the final of the SEHA Final 4 2022 in the Kresimir Cosic Hall in Zadar. Last year, the roles were the same – Veszprem were the favourites – but finally, the Hungarian side secured their fourth SEHA League trophy only in the penalty shootout by a narrow 31:29 victory.
Later on, both sides showed their quality in the EHF Champions League, making it to the knockout stage, and Veszprem even made it to the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. Now, the squads have changed, and both Telekom Vezsprem and PPD Zagreb made significant signings, which already showed their class in the semi-finals: left wing Timur Dibirov (who arrived from Vardar 1961) definitely lifts Zagreb’s level, while former Meshkov Brest top star Mikita Vailupau was already Veszprem’s top scorer in the semi-final by nine goals.
PPD Zagreb's player, Timur Dibirov is eager to play another final after winning four SEHA trophies with Vardar 1961: “Finals are always 50:50 if you ask me, no matter who is standing on the other side of the court. I believe we have what it takes to play a competitive one, although it surely won't be easy. We've had some really good periods in the match against Nexe and the main goal will be to make those good periods last as long as possible of course”, said Dibirov on Saturday’s media call at Zadar.
In the history of the SEHA League, PPD Zagreb only won one of ten duels with Telekom Veszprem, this victory dates back to 2016, but PPD coach Ivica Obrvan hopes to end this series on Sunday: “I did my best to analyze the match between Eurofarm Pelister and Telekom Veszprem last night. I feel like we did well against Nexe on Friday. Honestly, we expected it to be a bit harder. When it comes to Telekom Veszprem, I feel like they are on a whole different level right now but we are obviously not getting out there with a 'white flag'. It is basically an 'all-star' team and we'll have to analyze them well in order to deliver a good performance.” Besides, Obrvan praises the event in Zadar: “This tournament comes at the perfect time for us to see where we are when compared to some of the best teams in Europe. The organization here is always on a great level and it is a pleasure to be here and to play here.”
“It is always important for us to participate in the SEHA Final 4 and of course, we aim to win the trophy,” said Telekom Veszprem coach Momir Ilic. But he also underlines that “PPD Zagreb has a very strong team, they are stronger than last year. They play with discipline in attack, they have a tall defence and they have fast wings. But also my team looks well, the new arrivals all do a great job and bring us ahead. So we are confident for the final.”
Veszprem centre back Kentin Mahe is satisfied with the outcome of the semi-final: “We played with high speed, and when you speed up constantly then you lose some power, this is why we conceded some more, but we also score more. This is how we want to continue. We are absolutely happy with our new arrival, for example, Mikita Vailupau is a true goal machine and a perfect character. Dragan Pechmalbec is like a soldier for all tasks you give him.” Talking about the final match, the Frenchman is confident too: "We do not hope that we another penalty shoot-.out to win this year.”
PPD Zagreb play their fifth SEHA League final, but took the trophy only in 2013, while Telekom Veszprem extended their record by making it to their sixth final at their sixth appearance in the competition, and lost only once, in 2017 in Brest against Vardar 1961. Four times – 2015, 2016, 2020 and 2021 – the Hungarian side were the winners – and did not lose a single match in the last three seasons, even being victorious in all Final 4 matches in Zadar 2020 and 2021. If they win the final, they would level the number of five trophies with record winners Vardar 1961.
Veszprem’s Croat Manuel Strlek will face many country fellows of his former club, and mainly the wings will be in the focus on Sunday, though both sides count on extremely strong backcourt shooters, such as 2021 SEHA Final 4 MVP Petar Nenadic.
Photo credit: kolektiffimages