Rostov determined to go far again

Rostov-Don have been steadily progressing in Europe. The Russian side won the EHF Cup in 2017, reached the EHF FINAL4 for the first time in 2018 and returned to Budapest to finish runners-up in 2019.

With the minimal changes to their squad, the Russian champions look forward to another good season in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20 and are definitely a main candidate to make it to the EHF FINAL4 once again – and maybe even more.

Three questions before the season:

– Can Rostov win the Champions League?

Ambros Martin has won the most prestigious European trophy four times with Györ, and of course his ultimate goal is to reach the same height with Rostov. The Russian side will definitely face big competition and they first make sure to reach the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 again. But if they do, anything can happen in those two days in Budapest.

However, Martin himself prefers to focus on the quality of the game: “Our main goal is to show good and attractive handball. We want to play better and better from game to game, step by step, and at the end we will see what we have achieved. Of course we have high goals, but the most important is the way how we are trying to reach them.”

– How will they cope with the pressure of the pre-Olympic season?

The new season will certainly be challenging for Rostov. The team will again play a lot of matches in domestic competitions as well as the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League, and most of the players will also take part with the Russian national team in the World Championship 2019 in Japan, the EURO 2020 Qualifiers as well as the 2020 Olympics qualification. The tough schedule will include many long trips, so there is a risk of exhaustion at the end of the season.

But Ambros Martin can keep a close eye on his players, as he is now also the head coach of the Russian national team after taking over from Evgenii Trefilov.

– Will they be as brilliant in attack as they are in defence?

Following the main round last season, Rostov had the best defensive record of all teams. While it contributed a lot to the team’s good results, Rostov’s attack was not always as productive as it should be. Now Ambros’ goal is to improve that, and of course the coach relies a lot on Anna Vyakhireva. When the MVP of the 2016 Olympics and EHF EURO 2018 is fully fit, she is capable of doing great things in attack, so avoiding injuries will be one of the keys to Rostov’s success.

Under the spotlight: Ana Paula Rodrigues

The Brazilian centre back has been playing for Rostov since 2016, but missed almost the whole last season after a severe injury suffered during the EHF FINAL4 in 2018. Now Rodrigues seems to have fully recovered, and her shape will determine a lot in the team’s game, especially with another playmaker, Milana Tazhenova, being out for a long time with an injury.

Self-esteem

“Our aim is to perform at least not worse than in the previous season, going game by game. We will do our best to win every match,” Rostov’s captain Iuliia Managarova says.

Fun fact

The club in Rostov was founded in 1965, but it was named Rostselmash for sponsorship reasons during most of its history. Only in 2002, it was renamed to Rostov-Don.

What the numbers say

Rostov have as many as 14 national players in their roster – most of them obviously representing Russia, but there are also internationals from Ukraine, Germany, Brazil and Netherlands.

Rostov-Don (RUS)

Qualified for the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20 season: Russian champions

Newcomers: Irina Nikitina (Zvezda Zvenigorod), Julia Behnke (TuS Metzingen)

Left the club: Elena Slivinskaya (retired)

Coach: Ambros Martin (since 2018)

Team captain: Iuliia Managarova

Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2019/20 season): 8
Runners-up (1): 2018/19
Semi-final (1): 2017/18
Quarter-final (1): 2015/16
Group matches (1): 2016/17
Qualification (3): 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Winner:  2016/17
Runners-up: 2014/15
Quarter-final: 2009/10
Last 16: 2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-final: 2012/13, 2013/14
Quarter-final: 2010/11
Last 16: 2011/12

Russian league:
7 titles (1990, 1991 (USSR), 1994, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019)

Russian cup:
11 titles (1980, 1982, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2015-19)

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / ew