Benfica: The Eagles want to fly high again
This article is the first in a series of countdown stories, presenting all 24 teams that will play in the EHF European League Men 2022/23 group phase. Today: SL Benfica.
SL Benfica added a new chapter to the club’s history last season by winning their first European trophy. Hosting the EHF Finals Men 2022, the ‘Eagles’ overcame SC Magdeburg in the final for their maiden title – after having lost two Challenge Cup finals in the past.
For Benfica, ‘continuity’ is the key word, as most of the squad and the coach – Chema Rodríguez – remain unchanged compared to last season, with the exception of Ádám Juhász, the Hungarian centre back who arrived to replace Lazar Kukic, who left for Dinamo Bucuresti.
Otherwise, Benfica have stuck to their main pillars, including goalkeeper Sergey Hernández, right wing, Ole Rahmel, and top scorer Petar Djordjic.
- Benfica qualified for the group phase directly as defending champions
- in the Portuguese league, Benfica finished third last season and are waiting for 14 years to win the domestic title
- the squad incudes 12 different nationalities
- head coach Chema Rodríguez also works with the Hungarian national team, and will leave Benfica in the summer of 2023 to fully focus on Hungary
- the biggest signing this season is Ádám Juhász, an Hungarian centre back joining from Tatabánya
Most important question: Can Benfica win the trophy again?
Benfica will be a main target for their opponents, who want to beat the defending champions. But Benfica are playing handball in a very exciting way and are eager to deliver in the EHF European League again.
The new season has already started in the best possible way by winning Portuguese Super Cup. With a nearly unchanged squad, head coach Chema Rodríguez is full of confidence prior the title defence.
“It is a European competition which is very important for us. It gives Benfica the stage that the team deserves, a top team level,” Rodríguez says.
Also, team captain Paulo Moreno longs for history.
“We had an unblemished run last season, crowned with the European title. We want to strengthen the name of our club throughout Europe,” Moreno says.
Under the spotlight: Petar Djordjic
Racking up 133 goals in total last EHF European league season, Petar Djordjic is obviously a key player for Benfica. The 32-year-old left back has an impressive shot, he has scored incredible and decisive goals, and many opponent defences have troubles finding the right answers when they face him.
Djordjic is the player with the right mindset, he is at his best when the team needs him the most: A fundamental pillar under the red-white building.
How they rate themselves
There are no doubts about the high ambitions of Benfica. But the Eagles’ coach points to modesty and daily hard work this season, as the EHF European League is “a very challenging competition with great teams.”
“We were champions last season, and it brings more responsibility. But the team’s goal is always the same: play one game at a time and try to be competitive against all teams,” Rodríguez says.
When asked about Benfica’s chances, team captain Moreno remains modest, too.
“We still don’t know which group we will be in. But we will work to win as many games as possible. We know perfectly well that groups are difficult – that is what they told us last year, and we still managed to come through and win.”
The EHF European League is a European competition which is very important for us. It gives Benfica the stage that the team deserves, a top team level.
Did you know?
Spanish coach Chema Rodríguez is dividing his time between Benfica and the Hungarian national team. However, he leave his job at Benfica after the 2022/23 season to work full-time in Hungary.
What the numbers say
160 minutes. That is the amount of handball Benfica had to play in two days’ time to win the Portuguese Super Cup, as both their semi-final against Porto and the final against Sporting went into double extra time. Winning a trophy after extra time is nothing unusual to Benfica – that is how they defeated Magdeburg in the EHF European League final last season.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Nikola Zoric (RK Metaloplastika), Leandro Semedo (Ademar Léon), Arnaud Bingo (Tremblay), Vladimir Vranjes (Meshkov Brest), Ádám Juhász (Tatabánya), Guilherme Carvalho (Taubaté), Ricardo Rocha (Águas Santas)
Departures: Rogério Moraes (Melsungen), Francisco Pereira (Caen), Mahamadou Keita (Ciudad de Logroño), Lazar Kukic (Dinamo Bucuresti), Pedro Tonicher (Vitoria Futebol Clube)
EHF European Cup:
Participations (including 2022/23): 3
Winners (1): 2021/22
Qualification: (1): 2020/21
Group phase: 2016/17, 2019/20
EHF Challenge Cup:
Final: 2010/11, 2015/16; Semi-final: 2007/08, 2014/15
Portuguese league: 7 titles (1962, 1975, 1982, 1983, 1989, 1990, 2008)
Portuguese cup: 6 titles (1985-87, 2011, 2016, 2018)