A few weeks ago I received a call from my friend Bernardo Fernandes in which he proposed the idea of collaborating with Self-Pass during the EHL KO16 and KO08 stages in Barcelona, my affirmative response was immediate. For nothing in the world I’d miss this event that so many joys and sorrows has made me go through in these last 7 years and if also gives me the opportunity to express my feelings, thoughts and reflections on the most important club competition in the world, the proposal becomes irresistible.
During the three days I have been contributing with topics in my Twitter account @carlosgcuenca … just some live short messages on what I was watching and happening without in-depth reflection or analysis, now I have the opportunity to transfer my point of view and also ensuring the necessary time for analysis, reflection and observation.
The New Format
The EHL as a result of the complex international calendar (an issue that we are not going to comment on this article) had to reinvent itself and look for a new competitive format.
It is true that leaving some countries without their usual places created controversies but once seen how the competition has developed, I believe that the choice of format has been a great achievement.
We have experienced good level matches considering the part of the season in which we are, much more competitive and demanding than on previous editions. The fact of starting the competition with a Knockout system added that additional point of drama and emotion. In my opinion, a very adequate solution to the current scenario in European hockey and which had a successful response. It is important that regardless some changes and trials we keep the standards of a competition of such high level and prestige as the EHL.
On the initial day of KO16 the first “surprises” showed up where teams that could be considered favourites were eliminated (HGC and RCPOLO) both against English teams. Have to say that both British representatives demonstrated a very high level and a very positive image of their domestic league (Surbiton and HWHC).
The second day of KO16 was lived with less emotion and the theoretically favourite teams lived up to that condition. I would like underscore the match between the Rot-Weiss Koln vs Beerschot (3-1) where last edition runner-up had a really hard task and we lived the first tactical battle between the eternal defensive dilemma (individual vs zonal).
The KO8 arrived on Sunday with 4 exciting games on which the teams were playing to be part of the 8 privileged continental teams in FINAL 08, the best match without any doubt was the one played between Mannheimer and HWHC (2-1) with the Penalty Corner as main protagonist. RWK suffered greatly to defeat Three Rock Rovers (4-2), Kampong (for me the best team in the competition) and Surbiton proved to be far superior to their rivals (Herakles and Dinamo respectively).
As for the qualifying matches they had no history and the logic was fulfilled, these matches have been questioned in some cases but they are totally necessary for the future of the correct organization, ranking of the European club landscape and a new edition of the EHL.
Fun fact: In 16 matches played, the shootout round was not necessary and possibly the first time in KO rounds on EHL history.
In my last Tweet regarding the EHL I talked about some of those who in my opinion had been the protagonists of the weekend, without a doubt and especially because of the importance of his actions and interventions Alan Forsyth (Surbiton) was for me the event MVP; his goals were key in both matches and he did it from field play, PC and stroke. In the end the scorers always have that advantage over other players such as Kwan Browne (HWHC), the Trinidad and Tobago player showed everyone that the age (41 years if my information is correct) is not an impediment if you really intend to, he led the team from his position of full-back with efficiency, experience and quality. He was also one of the players who used the most offensive aerial as a tactical solution (I will talk it about later).
The top drag flickers were protagonists, Gonzalo Peillat (Mannheimer, 3 goals), Jip Janssen (Kampong, 3 goals) I want to highlight Guise-Brown (HWHC) the latter with 2 goals at key moments.
We could also see an impressive Bjorn Kellerman (Kampong) at this point of the season with spectacular goals, actions and a superior power. Special highlight for the young German Linus Müller (Mannheimer) with 19 years and leading the building-up of his team. Consecrated stars and new talents that make the EHL shine match by match, edition after edition.
From my point of view and maybe on my ‘coach eyes’ I have not perceived great news or issues to highlight … if it is true that we have seen beautiful and demanding defensive duels (Individual vs Zonal) such as the game between RWK vs Beerschot (this is repeated year after year and for lovers of defensive tactics, always very attractive to watch).
I have missed some new offensive penalty corners variants, although I imagine that at this moment of the season, my colleagues have saved them for more crutial moments.
I was very impressed and want to highlight an aspect of the game: the huge amount of offensive flicks (aerials) used during the weekend; short, long, diagonal, horizontal, into the D, all the varieties you can imagine and with a high rate of success. Welcome to #AIRHOCKEY!
Tremendously spectacular actions, very difficult to defend because of regulatory issues and very, very effective.
At international level, this aspect of the game has evolved dramatically in the last two years but in the EHL it is the first time that at the club level I have been able to see how this technical tool and its solutions have been so important. How beautiful it is to see!
What does the EHL leave us for the immediate future? To begin with, a FINAL8 of superlative level, the new format makes it very difficult for theoretically ‘non-favorite’ teams to access the final stages of this competition.
Germany is the clear dominator of the European club landscape with three participants: Mannheimer, RWK and Mulheim, Netherlands with Bloemendaal and Kampong (champions of 2 previous editions), Belgium perhaps the great “loser” of this edition “with only” Leopold, Spain is represented by Egara and England by Surbiton.
Are you going to miss this FINAL8?
Waiting to know the location and draw, yet predicting a spectacular final phase where the 5 top countries with the best league and club structure will fight for a new title in the BEST CLUB COMPETITION IN THE WORLD.
Thank you very much for your time and see you at Easter.