Four powerhouses eye title in the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne

07 Jun. 2024

Four powerhouses eye title in the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne

The business end of the premium club European competition, the EHF Champions League Men, is upon us, with the EHF FINAL4, set to be played for the 15th edition in the LANXESS Arena in Cologne, being scheduled for 8 and 9 June.

The top four teams in Europe will fight for the coveted trophy and for a place in the 2024 IHF Men’s Club World Championship, which will take place in autumn, with reigning champions SC Magdeburg, German powerhouse THW Kiel, Spanish giants Barça and Aalborg HĂ„ndbold featuring in the fight for the trophy.

Two semi-finals, a 3/4 Placement Match and the big final are scheduled to take place in Cologne this weekend, with three of the four participants having already won the trophy in the previous editions.

In the first semi-final, reigning champions SC Magdeburg will face Aalborg HĂ„ndbold, in one of the final matches at club level for superstar left back Mikkel Hansen. The Danish star, who is the third all-time top scorer in the European premium competition, with 1181 goals over 17 seasons, will have his last chance to complete his trophy cabinet, after being a world champion, an Olympic champion and an European champion with Denmark.

But Aalborg will face a tough challenge from reigning champions SC Magdeburg, which are aiming to become the second team in the EHF FINAL4 era to win back-to-back trophies after Barça did it in 2021 and 2022.

The German side had a superb season, securing the trophy at the 2023 IHF Men’s Super Globe, winning the German Bundesliga and the German Cup in the process too, aiming for an otherworldly quadruple, were they to lift this trophy here in Cologne too.

So far, Magdeburg had dropped only three matches in the EHF Champions League Men this season and had to seriously sweat against Industria Kielce in the quarter-finals, eliminating the Polish side on penalties, with a 4:3 win on penalties, after six shots were taken by each side.

On the other side, Aalborg eliminated Veszprem, with a 64:60 aggregate win, having lost only four matches this season, in a remarkable show of consistency for a team which qualified for the EHF FINAL4 only the second time in history.

Aalborg are also the second Danish team to be at the EHF FINAL4, as well as the one which could bring Denmark their maiden win in the history, with the competition being won by teams from Spain, France, North Macedonia and Germany so far.

The second semi-final sees the rivalry between Barça and THW Kiel rekindled, with the German side having won the title twice against their Spanish archrivals in the EHF FINAL4 era, first in 2010, with a 36:34 win and then in 2020 with a 33:28 win.

Kiel had an roller-coaster of a season, and are in Cologne after a fantastic comeback against Montpellier HB, whom they eliminated in the quarter-finals with a 61:60 aggregate win. The German side are looking for their fifth trophy, after the ones clinched in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2020, but will face the most decorated team in the history of the competition.

This was supposed to be a transitional season for Barça, which lost two key players last summer, centre back Luka Cindric and line player Ludovic Fabregas, but bounced back admirably, sealing their EHF FINAL4 spot in fashion, with a 62:53 aggregate win against PSG Handball in the quarter-finals.

The matches are scheduled on 7 and 8 June at 15:00 CEST and 18:00 CEST, with the final being played on 8 June, at 18:00 CEST.

Photo credit: RenĂ© SchĂŒtze / Aalborg Handbold / EHF