27 Nov. 2019
A mid-season break in European club competitions is approaching and teams will soon disperse for national team duty ahead of the Women’s World Championship and various men’s continental championships in January – and the season is heating up, with the first of the international competitions, the Challenge Cups, now ready for the finals.
Both the men’s and women’s competitions in the third-tier international club championship contested across Europe have reached the knock-out phase after the conclusion of the men’s qualification matches on the weekend. Following three rounds of qualification in each competition, a total of 30 teams are ready for their respective Last 16 stages.
Three nations will be represented in the Last 16 in both the men’s and women’s competitions: Czech Republic, Israel and Portugal. From Czech Republic, DHC Sokol Poruba reached the knock-out round in the women’s event with a thrilling one-goal aggregate win versus Turkish team Ankara, while HC Dukla Praha and HCB Karvina eliminated Bosnian side Gracanica and Serbian team Zeleznicar, respectively, in the men’s competition.
Portugal also count three sides in the competitions, with CS Madeira and SIR 1MAIO/ADA CJB reaching the women’s Last 16, and AM Madeira Andebol SAD qualifying for the men’s.
From Israel, AS SGS Ramhat Hashron made their way to the men’s Last 16 by defeating Ukrainian team Odessa. In the women’s competition, Maccabi Rishon Lezion knocked out Bosnian squad Krivaja in their two-leg qualification.
Aside from those three nations, the teams in the men’s and women’s competitions represent different countries. Across both competitions, 19 nations count clubs in the Challenge Cup.
The remaining sides contesting the women’s Last 16 will be Croatia’s Lokomotiva Zagreb and ZRK Bjelovar, Spain’s Mecalia Atletico Guardes and KH-7 BM. Granollers, Netherland’s JuRo Unirek VZV, Serbia’s RK Zajecar 1949 and HC Naisa Nis, Austria’s HIB Handball Graz, Italy’s SSV Brixen Südtirol, and Lithuania’s ACME-Zalgiris Kaunas.
Following the withdrawal of Turkish club Ardesen GSK, the EHF awarded Spanish team Valladolid, the top-seeded side ahead of the Challenge Cup season, direct passage to the quarter-finals. The women’s Last 16 will be played from February 1 to 9, 2020.
In the men’s competition, the remaining teams playing the Last 16 will be Norway’s Halden Topphandball and Drammen HK, Greece’s A.E.K. Athens HC, Luxembourg’s Red Boys Differdange, Romania’s CSM Bucuresti and AHC Potaissa Turda, Sweden’s Alingsas HK, Russia’s HC Neva SPb and HC Victor, Switzerland’s BSV Bern, Iceland’s Valur, and Turkey’s Beykoz BLD SK. The men’s Last 16 will take place from February 8 to 16, 2020.
It is the last season of the Challenge Cup, which will become the EHF Cup next season, while the current EHF Cup will morph into the new European Handball League. The change is a part of the reformation of European Handball Federation competitions, which extend to all major international club championships, including the Champions League. More information on the changes to international club competitions in Europe can be found here.
Further information on the Challenge Cup competitions, including match schedules and results, can be found on the official website of the competition.