EHF FINAL4 Medal Round – Post-Game Reactions
June 4, 2023
Vipers Kristiansand – FTC Rail Cargo 28:24 (14:13)
Anna Vyakhireva is an Olympic champion and MVP and now she’s a Champions League winner and Final Four MVP as well. After the final match in Budapest she talked to stregspiller.com.
Anna, congratulations. Please tell us what kind of journey, what kind of weekend, what kind of game it has been for you?
AV: Well, what do you want to know? I had a dream. This dream came true today. We began the work approximately eleven months ago. And, now we are here. We are holding this trophy – together we had this goal and we worked hard for it. I don’t think I can say that we built a good team because it was a great team before. But, I guess the new players brought some fresh air and I think we looked really good on the court. We really have our own chemistry and our own flow and I just love this energy that we have on the pitch. I hope we will keep it as long as possible.
Obviously you’re back at your best level…
AV: I can be better. But, yeah, it feels great. It’s good. These two days were enough – I love handball. I just love it and I’m so grateful to be on the court and play. And, if we win, it’s a bonus.
You arrived in Norway under special circumstances. What do you think about it now?
AV: Last summer, I just made the right choice and I think the proof is here and now – the medal. I came here to win this trophy and it’s sick that it worked out in the first season. But, I believe this team deserves it. I really love them and I think we did a huge, huge job to get here. Now, we are on top and I’m really, really proud.
What has Vipers done for you and your career?
AV: You can say they gave me this medal. Apart from this, they’ve been really kind to me all year. I just love this club. I love the city and I love the atmosphere, the girls and the staff. I think everyone is just trying their best.
When you came to Vipers, it was a brave decision because you left your home country for the first time in your life for a longer period. What was your expectation when you arrived in Kristiansand? Were you scared”
AV: Yeah, I think I would say that I was afraid, but not about playing handball. It was my first time living abroad – that’s all. Maybe a little bit stressed. But, they are so hospitable and they did everything for me to feel like home. Actually, I do now. I’m very grateful for all of it.
Is it the best choice you have ever made?
AV: Now, I can say ‘yes’. I’m proud of myself that I made this decision.
Will you go to bed tonight?
AV: Hopefully not, but we will see. My resources are not limitless, so we’ll see.
Jana Knedlikova, the Czech right-wing won the Champions League for a sixth time in a row. Here is what she had to say after the final match against FTC Rail Cargo.
Jana, first of all, congratulations. I have to ask a different question starting this interview. I just saw the end of the press conference – your coach was not smiling. What the hell is going on?
JK: Yes, it’s the way he is. I think he is very happy inside, but he doesn’t show his emotions so much.
You showed your emotions on the court and afterwards during the celebrations. You’re so used to winning, but is it still something special?
JK: Yes, absolutely. Every year is special. Behind every season and behind every medal is a different reason. So, it’s special, very special. It’s a dream of every handball player to reach this final stage and I still can’t believe that it’s six times already. I still feel like I’m telling my teammates to punch me or something, so I can be sure I’m not dreaming.
Your team stayed so calm, although the first half was a very close one. But, you reversed course in the second half…
JK: Yes, that was our goal. And I am really happy that we were able to play the way we wanted to. And I think maybe we seem calm, but it’s more concentration because we have just those type of players who keep it more inside and not looking forward.
Is it a matter of experience in the end? The other three teams in Budapest had a lot of good players on their roster as well…
JK: Of course, we have a lot of experience, but this weekend was a very special one. You saw that anything can happen at the Final4. It doesn’t matter what happened during the season, how good or bad a team played. Here it only depends on two days. And yeah, I think we had more power today. And when we can use it, we are unstoppable from all positions.
Where will you party tonight and when will you wake up tomorrow?
JK: Actually, I have no idea where we’ll be partying, but the bus will take me there and I am not planning to go sleep.
Andrea Lekic has seen it all and almost won it all, but it was her first trip to the Champions League final since 2018. With all the emotions flowing, she still found time to analyze the game and the FTC’s 2022/23 season.
What is going through your mind right now after losing the final match?
AL: I’m sad. I think everyone on my team is feeling the same. When taking a different view, we have to be grateful for this season. We played some really beautiful matches this year. In any case, it’s a historical season for our club. I think that nobody would bet on us in the beginning of the season that we will be here on the final day. We really should give us some credit for such an amazing season. Of course, it’s disappointing when you lose the final, but were close at the break. Thereafter Lunde was outstanding and this made a real difference.
Was this the maximum FTC could do today?!?
AL: I don’t know. I know that I gave everything. For me that’s most important. When you go to bed and look in the mirror ans say you gave it all. I did. I gave it all. Everything I had left, I laid on the floor in this Final Four. Obviously, we’ll be thinking about this and how to build up the team again. As a team and as a club we can learn a lot from this.
When you look back to the EHF Champions League match against Bietigheim in the fall, when you lost by 20 goals and now, the journey almost looks like a miracle?
AL: It’s sort of a miracle, yet from another point of view the loss back then was a very painful defeat. Looking back and where we are today, it triggers a huge feeling – a sense of accomplishment I’m truly grateful for.
I assume you are very satisfied with your first season in Budapest?
AL: How couldn’t I? On top of it all, playing in front of such a crowd, it’s just a privilege.
Gyor AUDI ETO – Team Esbjerg 28:27 (16:9)
After securing the bronze medal at the Final Four in Budapest, Stine Oftedal thinks that Gyor could have done better. Check out what she had to say after the game against Esbjerg.
First of all, congratulations for winning the bronze medal. It was a tough and close game in the end after what looked like an easy first half. Why?
SO: Actually that’s what I am asking myself as well. I’m not really sure what happened. I think we played a very good first half. We had a lot of saves and we used our speed. I also
think that Esbjerg stepped it up (in the second half ed.) because they didn’t play up to their potential. That says a lot as well.
So, each team owned one half. Still, I wish that we were be a little bit sharper the way we shot a
few times and not let them get so close. The final result shows the kind of quality and power
of both teams.
Maybe this game today sums up your season to some extent as you couldn’t live up to your potential?
SO: Maybe, I agree. But, at the same time, it’s quite an accomplishment to be in the Final Four year after year. Considering the quality and breadth we currently have in women’s handball, I think that every year it gets tougher and tougher to become champions. Of course, we wanted more. Yet, there are a bunch of other good teams as well.
In general are expectations too high?
SO: Hard to say, because we also set ambitious goals. For me, it’s a combination. Sometimes I feel that it’s easy to forget that the level of the other teams is excepetional as ell.
Can you be satisfied with your season?
SO: Satisfied? Yes. Completely happy? No. Of course, there’s something missing when you don’t reach what you dream of. Still, I think making it to the Final Four, get a medal and to win the Hungarian league, is an acceptable season.
Almost blowing a big half-time lead against Esbjerg in the bronze medal match, Ana Gros came to the rescue for Gyor during crunch time. Here is what the Slovenian had to say after the game in the Mixed Zone.
Congratulations for winning the bronze medal. I saw you celebrating after the final whistle despite missing the final match of the competition?
AG: Of course, it’s still a medal, even though we all wanted more. It’s hard to get old. All the teams are getting better and better and it’s not a given that one team will win in the end. There were so many surprises during the season – I think any medal is very important for us and, of course, to end the season with a win. This was most important.
In the first half you cruised through the game. It was quite impressive. Sandra Toft had a lot of saves and collectively you also seemed a bit more relaxed?
AG: In the locker room, we said we want to enjoy this game as it’s the last one. We owe it to ourselves, to everybody leaving the club, players, coaches, … so yeah, we just wanted to enjoy it. When they came back in the second half, we began to stumble a bit. Anyway, I think we had enough confidence and handled it well all the way to the end of the game.
What changed in the second half?
AG: I think our defense was not as good as in the first half. We conceded some easy goals and we let them shoot a bit too much. Of course, they were also more efficient and in the first half they were missing many of their shots. I think that made the difference. But, as I said, I’m happy that we handled it well towards the end. This victory was very important to us.
How would you sum up the 2022/23 season? You won the Hungarian League, lost the Cup final against FTC and you won the bronze medal here. Are you satisfied?
AG: It can always be more, but I can say we are not disappointed. Of course, it is a bit of a sour feeling, because we know we are capable to do more. But, it is far from being an unsuccessful season. We can still be proud of what we achieved. As I said before, these days handball is changing so much, it’s so fast that really no one is guaranteed to win it all. We can be proud. We won two medals. That’s also a good achievement.
Are you happy that you can go on holidays now?
AG: I cannot explain how much. I can speak for me and all the other players as well. It’s a big achievement to end the season without injuries, as well. That is something that many seem to forget about. But, it’s very important as well. I’m just very grateful that we all finished this season in good health.