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01.12.2016, 14:15◄ last page     

FIRST-HAND INSIGHT: In October and November Veszprém had as many defeats as in the entire last season. What went wrong with the Hungarian powerhouse?

5 reasons for Veszprém’s fall from grace

Veszprém are going through difficult times. The Hungarian side have good games but the results do not meet the high expectations from management and fans in the handball-crazy country.

What happened to the VELUX EHF Champions League runners-up from the past two seasons?

In 2014/15, Veszprém marched to the final, losing only two games in the competition – one of them being the final against Barcelona.

The following year, led by Carlos Ortega’s promoted secondary coach Xavi Sabaté, they had a similar path with just three defeats, including that collapse in the last 13 minutes of the final against Kielce.

The club even strengthened their squad after that devastating defeat in Cologne. Marko Kopljar, Dragan Gajic, Gábor Ancsin and Blaz Blagotinsek are established players but Veszprém have been struggling to play to their full potential this year.

The group phase has just been past the half-time mark but the Hungarian team have already lost three matches and dropped a point in two more games.

What went wrong with Veszprém and how can they improve? ehfcl.com has the answers.

1. The curse of ageing

Even the most talented branch of players feels the burden of years. Many of Veszprém’s key players are around 35, probably a factor in their recent money time struggles.

Not only in the VELUX EHF FINAL4 last season, Veszprém have lost a considerable amount of points in the last phase of their matches. Both Flensburg and Plock snatched a point in the last seconds, and PSG even won in Veszprém as Uwe Gensheimer beat the buzzer.

Also, the older a team, the more injuries come into play. Chema Rodriguez, László Nagy, Péter Gulyás and Renato Sulic have all been out for weeks this season. And the new signings had problems replacing them (see later).

2. Good moves turned bad

The forward-thinking management made the right choices in the market: Kopljar is both a great defender and a lefty shooter, just like the 35-year-old László Nagy. Blagotinsek could take over the 37-year-old Sulic’s place. And injury-bound Gulyás (32) could be replaced by Gajic.

The idea was good, the outcome not yet.

Kopljar’s arrival unsettled Hungarian signing Ancsin, and the Croatian needs more time to get on board with the team.

Gajic, a first-choice winger all his life, is fighting for his place with the golden-handed Gasper Marguc, who is also a huge favourite with the Veszprém fans.

And Blagotinsek rarely features in big games.

3. Lack of consistency and stamina

Veszprém did have some great games but more good periods.

Hosting PSG, the second half belonged to Veszprém. And they were comfortably leading both in Plock and Flensburg before blowing it each time.

Also, they were leading in Paris in the 40th minute and were close to Barcelona early in the second half but lost both matches.

This may be due to a lack of stamina as trainings started later this year because of the Olympic Games.

The team that were all about winning in recent years even looked defeatist at times.

4. Sabaté’s problems

Xavi Sabaté is still a very young coach, but the fact that his first season in charge was 13 minutes short of perfection proves he is a talented one.

Just like winning a Champions League final, crisis management cannot be learned from books. You have to play that final and you have to be in a crisis to learn these skills.

Add a defeat in the Hungarian league against Szeged, and there are signs of crisis in Veszprém.

Sabaté, who has been very unlucky with sidelined players, the fixture list, and just about everything else, gives his all but there are things beyond his control.

5. No luck, no glory

The best time to write a country song is when you feel nothing is working for you. If true, Sabaté should definitely form a band with Luke Bryan. It were not just faltering form, bad results and injuries, Veszprém had to deal with them in the worst possible times.

Aron Palmarsson could have made the difference against PSG but was out injured.

Máté Lékai, firing on all cylinders, was out for weeks against teams he could have done so well against (as proved in the home game against PSG).

Nagy and Kopljar were sidelined at the same time leaving Sabaté with very few options at right back.

An unlucky choice of goalies, a very tight schedule of games only add to the list.

TEXT: Bence Mártha / ew

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