Bíró: “We want to enjoy every second of the EHF FINAL4”
After a devastating 26:32 home loss in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the EHF Champions League Women, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria looked set to miss another edition of the EHF FINAL4, failing in a huge objective for the Hungarian side, missing out on playing the business end of the European premium competition at home, in Budapest.
But handball is an unpredictable game and after the first half of the second leg against Metz Handball ended in a 17:17 stalemate, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria produced one of the best second halves in their history to clinch a 33:26 win and seal their first ever place at the EHF FINAL4.
One of the reasons for FTC’s amazing comeback was goalkeeper Blanka Bíró, who entered the court in the last 30 minutes, saved six shots for a 35.2% save efficiency, which left Metz dumbfounded and the Hungarian players celebrating an otherworldly qualification, in the most dramatic possible fashion.
“We are really strong as a team, we are a true team and we stepped up after some huge losses throughout the whole season. We believed in ourselves until the end and we are here now, but one thing is sure: we have to work to keep the level as high as possible in this part of the season,” says Bíró.
The 28-year-old goalkeeper has missed a big chunk of the season, making her comeback only after EHF EURO 2022, in December, in a loss against CSM Bucuresti.
Since then, the Hungarian shot stopper has played 12 games, made 101 saves, and has a 31.7% save efficiency in the EHF Champions League Women, on par with other household names in the competition.
“I had a difficult season, with plenty of missed games, which was frustrating. But after my comeback, it was an amazing feeling to be back on the court, I was very happy. Yet I did not think that we can be in the FINAL4, especially from my point of view and with my games, because I had a lot of ups and downs,” adds Bíró.
Yet here they are, with a ticket for the EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, for the first time in history, with thousands of fans getting ready to flock to the MVM Dome, don their green and white shirts and cheer for their side.
It looked impossible when FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria lost against SG BBM Bietigheim in the group phase, 20:40, one of the largest losses in their history in the EHF Champions League Women.
It looked improbable when FTC conceded two losses in a single week against CSM Bucuresti. It looked like a utopia when with 30 minutes to go, the Hungarian side had to erase a six-goal gap against Metz in the quarter-finals.
Eventually, impossible proved to be nothing and FTC made it to Budapest in style, with the players failing to understand the magnitude of what they had done in the few seconds that followed after the final whistle against Metz.
“Every season, our focus was to get to the FINAL4, to get a spot between the top sides in Europe. This is a huge milestone in my career and in the club’s history. We did seal titles and cups in Hungary, but this is the top one can reach in European handball,” says Bíró.
Rookies have won the title in the EHF FINAL4 – look no further than CSM Bucuresti in 2016 – yet the challenge will be huge for FTC, who are facing Team Esbjerg, one of the in-form teams in the premier European competition.
Playing at home, in Budapest, in what will be a packed MVM Dome, will be a huge advantage for FTC, which have hosted their matches in the Érd Arena, 30 kilometres away from Hungary’s capital.
“I am sure that this will be an experience to remember. We have already trained in the MVM Dome, but what the fans will bring to the table, it is something amazing, it just gives us goosebumps. I hope that this will have a positive effect on our game and our performance,” says FTC’s goalkeeper.
Indeed, it will be a weekend to remember for FTC, which constantly tried to get their tickets to the EHF FINAL4, but faltered at the last hurdle plenty of times, being eliminated in the quarter-finals four times and in the play-offs once in the last seven seasons.
“Our goal is to win the title, this is how we train for the matches, this is how we prepare for the FINAL4. We also want to enjoy every single second of the games. We have fought together all season and now this is the prize we have,” concludes Bíró.