Zagreb vs Vardar: New coaches, new players, same aim - the Final


No teams had been part of the SEHA - Gazprom League Final 4 tournaments more often than PPD Zagreb and record winners Vardar 1961. On Friday (20.30 CET), the five-times winner from Skopje and the 2013 winners and 2018 and 2019 finalists from Zagreb will clash again in the second semi-final at Zadar. Both teams have new coaches, mainly Vardar have many new players compared to the line-up they had when they won the SEHA - Gazprom League and Champions League trophies in 2019.
Though PPD never defeated Vardar in any crucial SEHA - Gazprom League Final4 match, new coach Igor Vori is confident: “I do not feel so much pressure, PPD Zagreb is an institution in handball and we always want to deliver our best. Similar to Vardar 1961, we have new players and a new coach, but everything is going in the right direction”, Vori said at the Opening Press Conference of the 2020 Final 4 tournament in Zadar on Thursday.

His expectations are high, but he also knows the strength of Vardar: “They are the defending champions and despite many changes in the team, they still have this great fighting spirit, which they showed in the quarter-final against Nexe. But we want to prove our abilities and ambitions in this really tough semi-final. Our team is growing every day and we are ready for this great challenge against Vardar 1961.”

Also, PPD goalkeeper and team captain Matej Asanin is optimistic, but aware of the opponent: “We are well prepared, but we are still growing as a team. We expect a tough duel, which means a great experience and challenge for all of us.”
While Zagreb did not have any problems in beating Tatran Presov twice clearly in the quarter-final, Vardar was really under pressure on their way to Zagreb, as they were close to elimination in the quarter-final against Nexe: “We were a bit of lucky, but we had earned that luck,” coach Stevche Alusovski looked back on the match last Saturday (24:25): “This game was a good experience, to see all those mistakes, which we now need to avoid.”

By looking upon his squad, he is confident with the transition before the Final 4: “We have nine new players and right now I am completely satisfied. Of course, I hope, we will be able to deliver our best performance. We are building up a team, not only for this tournament but for the entire new season. We are getting ready for all the games, not just here for the Final 4.”
Vardar 1961 need to replace team captain Stojanche Stoilov due to COVID-19 isolation. Left winger Timur Dibirov will replace the line player: “He is not only a captain, but he is also the heart of our team. We will see if we can do it without him, as we are hurt without him,” said Dibirov, adding: “You have to start every season from the beginning. It is hard to play at the highest level at first with a lot of new players. But we are going step by step.”