Final Four 2007: The Game

Oooh, this is going to have to be in installments. I went to the Final Four without my laptop and feel I have material for at least 5 blog posts, we'll see if I get past one....

Good news to start off with: THW Kiel is the Final Four Pokal Champion 2007 - for the fourth time since this competition first started! And my nerves have calmed down and my voice is slowly returning to its normal pitch. After three nerve-wracking and exciting games, I am as tired as if I had played a game myself. (No, I was not let into the showers to photograph the guys, this is a link to the picture on the THW home page!)

Saturday was the semi-finals day. SG Kronau-Östringen (soon to be know as the much more pronouncable Rhein-Neckar Löwen) gave the hosts HSV a good run for their money - and ended up winning the game. They squeaked by HSV, the reigning champions, 29:28, and just shocked the crowd in the arena - how could this middle-of-the-league upstart beat the HSV machine?? Well, they did, by sheer will-power and determination and some really, really good handball.

THW and SG Flensburg-Handewitt then had a go at each other - one of about 3 or 4 they will have in the next few weeks. THW started off just wiping the floor with Flensburg, and went into half-time 7 goals ahead. The Flensburg trainer instilled a fire in the breasts of his team, and they fought their way up to undecided. THW was finally shocked into action - Karabatic threw goals left and right, and they there was some problem with the timekeeping system, so they had to revert to the analog backup system! Flensburg was unhappy with one goal given that had crossed the line of the goal, knocking the goalie on his back, he retaliated by hitting the ball out of the cage with his head - but it being across the line counts, it doesn't have to hit the ground. When the timekeepers said the game was over, it was 34:33 for THW - and I had practically lost my voice....

So it was the Lions against the Zebras today, and the Lions started off with a roar - they got off 5 (five!) goals before THW finally scored there first one, and at one point were leading by 6 (six!) goals. But the THW machine finally came to life in the second half. They were down 4 at half time, and by 15 minutes left into the game had managed to tie up the game. The THW fans just went screaming wild mad (and I, of course, joined in), and they pressed ahead, now one goal ahead, now two.

There were 7-meter penalties and 2-minute penalties galore, but THW even got in a goal with two men out on penalties, it was really glorious to watch! As the last two minutes started with THW up two goals you could see the steam disappear from the Lions. They were exhausted, and there was no way they could get any more goals, and THW took it home 33:31. Karabatic (who was voted most valuable player) had something like 12 goals in this game and 13 in Saturdays game - the moment that man get within 9 meters of the goal with a ball in his hands, he shoots - and usually gets it in.

For some of the players like Zeitz and Klein, it was the second title this year: first world champion, now DHB Pokal-Champion, and there are two more titles to win: the Champions League Cup and the major league (1. Bundesliga). THW is poised to bring home the last two as well and to have a triple crown - I wish them luck! Karabatic (Nr. 22 in the picture from Handballwoche above), who plays for France and was so bitterly disappointed during the world cup, was so happy to have won this title, his victory scream is really something!

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