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For the first time in history, Romania is represented by two women's handball clubs in Champions League
Romanian women's handball has over the years delivered top results, both at national level as well as in European inter-club competitions. Alongside Hungary and Denmark, Romania is the third country this year to be represented by two clubs in the Champions League quarterfinals. Norway and France, the other two countries with powerful handball teams, are each represented by a club. For Romania, this achievement offsets some of the subpar results reported in recent years by the national team. Whereas so far CSM Bucharest traditionally qualified to this phase of the competition, this year another team from Bucharest, Rapid, a club with a rich history in women's handball, has also advanced to knockout phase.
The winner of the European Champions Cup in 1964, the IHF Cup in 1993 and the Cities Cup in 2000, Rapid thus returns to the elite of women's handball. On Sunday, the team from Bucharest defeated Krim Ljubljana of Slovenia 30-24 in the quarterfinals playoffs. Rapid restored the five-goal difference after Krim had won 29-24 the first leg played in Slovenia last week. The return leg was dominated by Rapid, which had the lead throughout the entire game. The end was not for the faint of heart, as the qualification was decided in the last seconds of the game.
Estavana Polman of the defending World Champions the Netherlands was the top scorer for Rapid with 8 goals. Sorina Grozav also put in a stellar performance, with 6 goals, of which two in the final stages of the match. The win could not have been possible without the contribution of one of the best headcoaches in Europe right now, Kim Rasmussen of Denmark, who seven years ago won the Champions League with CSM Bucharest.
The first leg of the quarterfinals is scheduled for the end of April, while the return legs will be played in early May. Rapid will take on Vipers Kristiansand of Norway, the defending champions, which secured qualification directly after winning Group A. CSM Bucharest has also qualified directly to the quarterfinals after ranking second in Group A and will take on Team Esbjerg of Denmark. In the quarterfinal playoffs, the Danish side ousted Brest Bretagne of France. Romania thus has good chances of being represented by two teams in the Final Four tournament, scheduled for early June in Budapest. (VP)
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