sabato 27 settembre 2014

Hungary OB1 Season 2014/2015 Preview

After a summer packed with international water polo it is back to domestic rivalry again for the 2014/2015 season and it promises to be one of the most excited seasons in years! 
The return of 2008 Olympic Champions Dániel and Dénes Varga, and Norbert Madaras to the Hungarian waters, and the upset move of 6 Eger players to OSC (Budapest), set the transfer carousel in motion early in the summer. A hurricane moved over the Hungarian competition and when the dust settled the result of this transfer frenzy was obvious.
Eger alone welcomed 8 new players and OSC (Budapest) even replaced the entire squad.
But it was not only the top guns that gained more muscle. The entire league looks to have stepped up to a whole new level. All of this makes us fans jump of excitement while we wait for the highly anticipated first round matches on October 8th.

Magyar Kupa

However, before we focus on the competition, there is the matter of the Hungarian National Cup.
Preliminary matches are scheduled for the weekend of October 4 and faith linked Eger and OSC together for a remarkable reunion in host city Debrecen. Home town team DVSE and Budapest based UVSE complete group B.

Group A, played in Pécs, will see a renewed Szeged take on hosts PVSK, Budapest based YBL and former powerhouse Vasas. The champions of 2012 saw their squad weakened yet again, especially after the departures of Dániel Angyal (Eger), Drasko Brguljan (OSC), and Gergely Katonás (FTC). 

In group C OB1 newcomer and hosts Miskolc will welcome a busload from Budapest.
The youngsters of KSI, outsiders BVSC, and last year’s number 4 Honvéd will all travel to East Hungary for their preliminary rounds of the “Magyar Kupa”. 

Last but not least. Group D, played in Szentes, will see the stars of Szolnok on their first steps to glory facing Budapest based FTC, Kaposvár of 3 time Olympic champion Zoltan Szécsi, and hosts Valdor Szentes.

Battle for top qualification

There is still a very long way to April 2015 but the top teams will certainly have their eyes set on a top 4 ranking by that time.  While last season the final 4 qualification was pretty much settled already halfway into the season, we expect a completely different scenario this year.

2013 and 2014 final contestants Szolnok and Eger will consider themselves quite certain of final 4 participation. However, both teams will want to take morale advantage over their rival by finishing at the top of the standings before going into the finals.
Fresh superpower OSC will definitely try to spoil the plans of the established order though.
A good start will be crucial for their campaign and the first 5 rounds certainly look to be in favor of the team of Coach Balázs Vincze. They will face Honvéd at home on October 8th followed by 4 more games in home town Budapest, including a match up with Eger on October 31st, before finally traveling outside the Hungarian capital in round 6 to meet Szeged.
Rivals Eger and Szolnok will already meet on round 3 in Eger, a crucial match as the loser will have to go on a chase already very early in the season.

Szolnok's squad for this season.
Photograph: Szolnok Facebook.

Behind these 3 star packed show-offs there is a number of teams capable of battling their way into a top 4 finish. Most obvious pick seems to be last season’s number 4 Honvéd. With Koji Takei and Kiss Gergely they have one of the most productive offensive couples in the league (130 goals between them last season) and with Olympic gold medal veteran Barnabás Steinmetz organizing the defense, the team looks solid. The retirement of goalkeeper and Captain István Gergely will definitely have an impact. But with the signing of Hungarian national team starlet Márton Lévai, Istvan’s legacy seems to be in good hands.

There will be many challengers ready to take on Honvéd for that 4th spot though.
First in line would be Szeged. The cup winner of 2013, 2012, and 2011 saw their ambitions shattered after the departure of main sponsor A-Hid and were forced watch their star players leave to strengthen the competition. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Club legend Tamás Molnár stepped up as the new club director to safeguard the future of Szeged and veterans Csaba Kiss, Aljosa Kunac, and Lukas Seman remained loyal to the club. They even managed to land ex-Vasas youngsters Ádám and Krisztián Manhercz.
For Vasas it was a tough summer once again. Key players Dániel Angyal and Drasko Brguljan abandoned ship, the Manhercz brothers joined Szeged, and even club veteran Gergely Katonás, who had been with Vasas since 2007, continues his career at FTC.
However, the advantage for Vasas is that they can always count on a fresh supply of talented youngsters from their youth program such as Kristóf Kiss and Tamás Sedlmayer.
Whether Coach Laszló Földi and veteran Ádám Steinmetz will be able to forge this youthful bunch into a successful team, remains to be seen.
One team that will definitely be up for it is other Budapest based side BVSC.
Coach Tamás Märcz took advantage of the transfer fury of Szolnok and picked up Béla Török and Pásztor Mátyás whose services were no longer required at last season’s runner up.
Centre forward Tamás Mezei did go the other way in return, but Péter Kovács was signed from rivals Honvéd as replacement in the centre forward position.
One other player that left BVSC is veteran Balázs Nyéki. The silver medal winner of 2013 with Szolnok has now joined FTC and will aim to get as close to the top 4 as possible. However, a top 8 finish would already be a quality achievement. Top shooter and creative spark Tyler Martin exchanged the banks of the Danube for the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Marseille and left behind his Australian mates Aidan Roach and Joel Swift. György Gerendás and Zsolt Varga (Technical Director and head Coach) also exploited the misfortune of Szeged by taking over youngster Szilárd Jansik. The talented right hander is one of the talents to watch out for the coming years and will hope to make an impact this season.

The FTC team for the upcoming season.

Further down the standings there are several other teams trying to claw their way into the top 8.
PVSK looks to have good papers this season with the return of Károly Czigány from Switzerland and the signing of Szentes’ top goal scorer, Zsolt Kistamás.
Especially interesting will be the return of Újpest, as UVSE, at the highest stage.
The winner of last year’s second division has finally returned to the level at which they celebrated so many successes in the past. A mixture of young and old, led by OB1/B 2014 top scorer Zoltán Dávid, will attempt to restore glory again to the yellow and purple side of Budapest.
However, they will have to deal with Kaposvár, Debrecen, KSI (Budapest), and Szentes who will all try to avoid ending up at the bottom of the pool by the end of the season.

Waterpoloworld also asked several top players of the competition about their expectations this season.

A lot has been said about the top 3 teams Eger, OSC, and Szolnok. However we should not forget about the rest of the competition. Can we expect any of the other teams to be able to challenge the probable top 3?

If we reach our highest level during the season, and are able to maintain it, I do not think we should be afraid of any of the other teams. However in sport anything can happen and on a bad day any of these teams can give us a hard game. (Dániel Varga - Szolnok)

The top 3 teams will probably be playing for the championship post season. However, during the regular season teams like Szeged, BVSC, FTC, Honvéd, or Kaposvar might cause a few surprise results. Especially when playing at home. These teams will also decide among each other which will join us in the semi-finals.(Dávid Bisztritsányi – OSC)

The other teams are not to be underestimated. There is a lot of competition for the 4th semi-final spot and these teams will be very motivated. Especially against us. We need to prepare well and take every game serious. It is very important to finish 1st in the regular season. (Miklós Gór-Nagy – OSC)

Miklós Gór-Nagy.

Although I'm happy that you've placed our team in the top 3, I can't agree with the assertion that the top of the table is already set. It is a long season and unpredictable outcomes can happen for many reasons- injuries, team chemistry, tactics, etc. For that reason, we will play every opponent we face hard, concentrating on our own standards for performance. (Kevin Graham (CAN) – OSC)

At this point I am not sure how those teams are going to look like but I think that FTC, Szeged and Honvéd will be able to come out in their home pool and get really close, maybe even surprisingly beat one of the bigger teams throughout the season. (Balázs Erdélyi – Eger)

Dániel, your return to Hungary together with Denes, was the biggest international move of the summer. Does this bring any extra pressure? People expect Szolnok to win the league now.

Almost my entire career I played under pressure and with big expectations. So the situation is not new for me and my brother. If I would be in charge of the club, I would have the same expectations of the players.(Varga)

The Magyar Kupa draw put OSC in the group with Eger.
Does this matchup have any added emotional value for the ex-Eger players now representing OSC?

I am happy with the draw. It gives us a chance to play a good game against Eger without very high stakes. For me personally it is just a match. However, the first time when we will travel to Eger and play in the Bitskey it will be more emotional. (Bisztritsányi)

Dávid Bisztritsányi.

It is special in a way that we know a lot of people from the Eger team. But, like Bisztro already said, this game is not with very high stakes. It is good to play against them early and test our strengths.
In Bitskey it will be a different situation indeed. Until not long ago, my life was in Eger. Our friends still live there. (Gór-Nagy)

Next weekend, it will definitely be a different feeling to be lined up against, as opposed to alongside, some ex-teammates and friends. The objective will be the same with OSC as it was with Eger though- to play at the highest level possible. I'm looking forward to the challenge! (Graham)

In preseason you beat Szolnok 11-7 in Romania. Does this victory hold any meaning? How strong is the new OSC team?

It was just a friendly match, but I guess both teams wanted to win. We played a bit better than Szolnok and had a little more luck. At this moment, our expectations are high with OSC. We have a group of very talented players, 6 or 7 of which are national team players for their country. Our coaches Balazs Vince and Peter Becsey are experienced and well prepared and in the back we have A-HÍD Group and Újbuda district supporting us. They have created very good conditions for us to do our work. (Bisztritsányi)

The pre-season victory against Szolnok took place under similar circumstances for both teams. We were both in pre-season training mode, both missing players and neither team had been completely together for more than a week. I don't think the result holds much meaning. (Graham)

Kevin Graham.

OSC is a very new team and we need to be patient. There will be ups and downs. We are still in the process of getting to know each other as players and as people. However, we have a young and motivated group and are ready for the season. (Gár-Nagy)

Balazs, coming from the US college league – how big is the step up to the Hungarian competition?
It definitely will be a huge challenge for me because water polo is played on higher level here than it is in the U.S college championship. In the summer I had the chance to get a taste of this level and I feel that I will be ready to compete in these leagues. (Erdélyi)

Eger has gone through a very turbulent summer with many changes in the squad. How is the morale in the team at this moment? What is the expectation for the first half of the season?

Yes, Eger has been through a lot in the last couple of month. The core of the team did indeed leave.
However, I don’t think this would be a big issue looking at the long term perspective. At this point we are a “new” team with many new, but very experienced professional players. We need some time to get where we want to be throughout and towards the end of the season. I think we are on the right path at this point. We just had a two day training camp in Belgrade. This was the first time we played together and in my opinion there were many things that I saw which can give us a reason to be optimistic going forward. The Hungarian Cup starts next weekend and most likely we will not play our best water polo yet. However, we will definitely do everything we can to put out a good performance. It is a great opportunity for us to prepare for our game against Szolnok, which will in a month or so. By then we will need to play very well if we want to give them a rough game. (Erdélyi)

Balasz Erdelyi.
Photograph: Marcel ter Bals.

Miki, with OSC you compete at 3 different club levels. The national league, national cup, and the European competition. As a new team, how are the priorities? 

It depends from which perspective you are looking at our situation. Of course, we want to do well in all competitions. But our focus now is to develop as a team and work towards a good form and standard. If we can reach that goal and maintain it, we can be competitive on all those levels. (Gór-Nagy)

Already in the 3rd round Szolnok will go to Eger to meet their championship rivals.
How important is a good result in this game and a strong start to the season?

That game is played very close to the Euro League qualification group games. This is even more important for us. Of course, against Eger, every game is important, but if it goes wrong it is nothing fatal so early in the season. (Varga)

Dániel, returning to the Hungarian competition after 4 years in Croatia, what does it mean for you to play in your home country again?

I am very excited about the return to Hungary. I’d like to prove once again that Hungarian clubs can play in the top of the Champions League. My new team mates are great and there are some great players with our opponents as well. This makes the competition stronger and makes me a better player. (Varga)

You now also share the dressing room with 3 guys (Mitrovic, Gocic, Aleksic) that kept you from 3 gold medals over the summer with the Hungarian national team.
Does that have any impact on the feeling in the squad? Or can you keep club and country duties separated?

Our 3 Serbians are all very nice guys and fantastic players. So I am not worried at all about conflicts or anything due to results with the national team. (Varga)

Daniel Varga.

David, as a goalkeeper, do you have any special goals or targets that you want to achieve this season?

Of course I want to win all the games! But we are realistic. I just want to enjoy the whole season and contribute to the efforts of the team. If I perform well, hopefully I can come closer to the national team.(Bisztritsányi)

Kevin, you are a player especially known for your defensive capabilities and interceptions. In pre-season you have also started to more goals! Can we expect more of this in the months to come?

I will certainly continue to score goals, as well as everything else that is required to get a victory!  I believe that our depth of talent is one of our team's greatest strengths. If an opposing team focuses on shutting down certain players, there are many others that are able to exploit those shifts in the defensive scheme. (Graham)

Balazs, do you have any personal goals for this season?

My personal goal would be to play my best water polo, regain the rhythm of the European water polo and get as much international experience as possible. Playing in the Champions League will definitely contribute to this!(Erdélyi)

Text and interviews: Kevin Vernooij.
Waterpoloworld’s 2014/2015 pre-playoff prediction!
You hear it here first!

1.    Szolnok
2.    OSC (Budapest)
3.    Eger
4.    BVSC (Budapest)
5.    Honvéd (Budapest)
6.    FTC (Budapest)
7.    Szeged
8.    Kaposvár
9.    Vasas (Budapest)
10.    DVSE (Debrecen)
11.    PVSK (Pécs)
12.    UVSE (Budapest)
13.    KSI (Budapest)
14.    Szentes

0 commenti:

Posta un commento