How does Vardar arrive at the Final 4?
After three seasons in a row being on the verge of qualifying for the Final Four, the Macedonian team has finally achieved Champions League’s semifinals this year for the first time in its history. However, this lack of experience in European finals (Vardar’s debut in an EHF tournament was in season 1994/1995, when it was defeated by Granollers at an early stage) is supplied with the hunger of reaching the highest point of a project that has taken it to some consecutive seasons in the continental elite.
Raúl González’s men arrive at impressive form to the Final Four: 11 undefeated matches in a row, with titles such as the Macedonian Cup and SEHA League won in this period and including the double win against Flensburg-Handewitt in quarterfinals with a +10 goal average in the aggregate. As an example of their offensive power, in the last 5 matches (4 from the domestic league and the quarterfinals second leg against the German team), Vardar’s worst scoring was 35 goals. It might be presumable that rivals in Macedonian championship could have less power than Flensburg, but in this same period, it managed to beat Metalurg Skopje (38-25), its arch-rival and precisely the last team to defeat it (29-26, on 2nd April in a Macedonian league match).
Regarding this Champions League edition, it succeeded in leading its group (10 wins and 4 losses) and, as said above, beating Flensburg-Handewitt in both legs of the quarterfinal tie. In Vardar, we can find two main foreign nationalities: Spain and Croatia provide important players for the Macedonian attack. Alex Dujshebaev has become the top scorer of his team in Champions League with 74 goals, while Croatians Igor Karacic and Luka Cindric (51 and 54 goals respectively) lead their team’s attack from the center. Another prominent Croatian there is Ivan Cupic who, together with Russians Timur Dibirov (65 goals) and Daniil Shishkarev, are a real threat for the opponent from the wings.
Vardar faces history in this Final Four, since it is the first time it reaches such stages and, in addition, it will be facing one of its bêtes noires of recent times, Barcelona, who hasn’t lost in their last 10 direct matches (only a draw in Skopje, 29-29, back in 2013). Up to now, the Macedonians have reached their best stage in their competition history. Now the point is if their adventure goes on further or it finishes in semifinals.