Powerhouses make the cut after the conclusion of the group phase in the EHF Champions League Women

19 Feb. 2024

Powerhouses make the cut after the conclusion of the group phase in the EHF Champions League Women

After 14 scintillating rounds, the group phase of the 2023/24 season in the EHF Champions League Women is now done and dusted, with four teams making it to the quarter-finals, while eight other sides have progressed to the play-offs, keeping their EHF FINAL4 dream alive.

The remaining four teams – WHC Buducnost BEMAX and IK Savehof in Group A, plus Rapid București and MKS Zaglebie Lubin in Group B – are now eliminated, with their European season over.

With 11 consecutive wins to start the season, Györi Audi ETO KC secured the first place in Group A early, with the subsequent two losses against CSM Bucuresti and DVSC Schaeffler, plus the draw against Brest Bretagne Handball failing to make a dent in the Hungarian side’s armour. Nevertheless, the Hungarian powerhouse will have some questions to answer in the next phase of the competition, as they lost home matches in two consecutive seasons now, a feature which has not happened since 2016.

The second qualified team from Group A is Odense Handbold, as the Danish side secured a quarter-finals berth for the third season in their history. Odense made it through after winning their last match in the group, 29:25, against CSM București, with Ole Gustav Gjekstad, who won the last three titles with Vipers Kristiansand, made an excellent debut with the Danish side.

The biggest surprise of the group was Brest Bretagne Handball, which finished third, with an excellent run-in, including two wins against CSM Bucuresti, helping the French side hold the tie-breaker against their opponents, as both sides finished with 17 points.

CSM, which are trying to make the EHF FINAL4 for the first time since 2018, will now have to go through the play-offs, while their top star, Cristina Neagu, a four-time IHF Female Player of the Year, became the second player in history to reach the 1100-goal milestone, after Jovanka Radicevic.

DVSC Schaeffler, in their return to the European premium competition after more than a decade, and SG BBM Bietigheim, completed the play-offs line-up, with a big gap between them and the other two sides, WHC Buducnost BEMAX and IK Savehof, as the Swedish side lost all their 14 matches played this season.

In Group B, the battle for the two qualifying places for the quarter-finals went until the final round, with the first one sealed by Metz Handball, upon their 26:25 win against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria. Metz’s line player, Sarah Bouktit, who starred for France at the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship, winning the title, is also the top goal scorer of the European premium competition, with 89 goals.

Team Esbjerg secured their spot in the quarter-finals with a lopsided win against Rapid Bucuresti, 33:24, in an intense match, with both sides facing a do-or-die proposition. With the ninth loss in 14 matches, Rapid are out, failing to replicate their excellent debut season in the EHF Champions League Women.

The reigning champions of the EHF European League Women, Ikast Handbold, finished third, followed by reigning champions Vipers Kristiansand, Krim Mercator Ljubljana and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria.

The play-offs look to be exciting, with FTC facing Brest, Bietigheim meeting Ikast, Krim locking horns with CSM and DVSC meeting reigning champions Vipers, on 16-17 and 23-24 March, in four crucial doubleheaders.

2023/24 EHF Champions League Women – play-offs schedule

M1: FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA)
M2: SC BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs Ikast Handbold (DEN)
M3: Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU)
M4: DVSC Schaeffler (HUN) vs Vipers Kristiansand (NOR)

2023/24 EHF Champions League Women – quarter-finals schedule
Winner M4 vs Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN)
Winner M3 vs Metz Handball (FRA)
Winner M2 vs Odense Handbold (DEN)
Winner M1 vs Team Esbjerg (DEN)

Photo credit: EHF / Kolektiff Images