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Date: 8/25/2017

The 2017 IHF Super Globe semi-finals see HC Vardar and FC Barcelona meeting only months after they did so in the same stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League, while defending champions Fuchse Berlin play Al Sadd with the hope of progressing to their third consecutive final. 

Prior to the semi-finals, Esperance Clube Pinheiros take on Sydney Uni Handball Club and Esperance Sportive de Tunisie meet Naft-O-Gas-Gachsaran in the first games of the placement round. 

Placement match: Naft-O-Gas-Gachsaran (IRI) vs Esperance Sportive de Tunisie (TUN) 13:00 local time

Esperance Sportive de Tunisie and Naft-O-Gas-Gachsaran both recorded significant defeats in their opening matches – though they must have known the odds were stacked against them when they began their IHF Super Globe campaigns against the EHF Champions League heavyweights FC Barcelona Lassa and HC Vardar. ES Tunis lost by 18 goals at the hands of the record Spanish champions, while Gachsaran were defeated by eight to the current Champions League title holders. 

It seems both are capable of a victory in this encounter, and it will be interesting to see which sides’ tactics guide them to a win.

ES Tunis were led by a five goals from Mohamedali Bhar and Nidhal Amri in their first match in Doha, while Gachsaran’s stand-outs were Kamran Nosrati with seven goals and keeper Ali Rahimikazerooni with a 36% save rate. 

Placement match: Sydney Uni Handball Club (AUS) vs Esporte Clube Pinheiros (BRA) 15:00 local time

Esperance Clube Pinheiros may have lost their opening encounter at the 2017 IHF Super Globe, but they put on a strong performance to be defeated by only two goals against the defending champions Füchse Berlin. With that result EC Pinheiros made a statement that they cannot be underestimated, and look to be contenders to rank well after the placement round. 

In the quarter-final match Pinheiros relied on strong attacking games from Arthur Flosi (eight goals) and Julian Souto (seven), as well as the leadership of centre back Diogo Hubner and an excellent game by goalkeeper Marcos Santos (35% save rate). 

Sydney Uni also counted on a great game from their goalkeeper Tomasz Szalkucki, who was key in keeping Al Sadd under control in their quarter-final. His saves were not quite enough for the Australian team however, and the six-time Oceania champions finished with a distinct defeat that sent them to the placement round where they will aim to beat their 2016 ranking of eighth. 

Sydney will face a difficult challenge when they meet Pinheiros, but are sure to fight hard for the win that could see them contest fifth place on the last day of competition. 

Semi-final: HC Vardar Skopje (MKD) vs FC Barcelona Lassa (ESP) 17:00 local time

The first semi-final of the day is set to be a thrilling clash between two sides with serious history. Barcelona and Vardar last met in the penultimate match of the VELUX EHF Champions League 2016/17, when the Spanish side were knocked out of the title race by the Macedonian champions with a 25:26 defeat. 

Vardar went on to celebrate the first Champions League title in the history of not only the club but the nation of FYR Macedonia, adding a fourth trophy to their collection for that season – along with the SEHA League title, and Macedonian championship and Cup. Barcelona left the FINAL4 event in Cologne empty handed as they also lost the bronze-medal match to Veszprem. 

Considering the calibre of the two teams, not to mention Barcelona’s motivation to avenge that devastating finish to last season, the semi-final clash can be expected to be a closely matched one where the winner will have to play their best game to record victory. 

“We are progressing – every game we are better,” said Barcelona newcomer Jure Dolenec, commenting on how the Super Globe falls early in the team’s season before focusing on Vardar. “Tomorrow is already a big game against a great team, the European champion, and we need to show a really good performance to play in the final.”

Both enter the game on the back of clear victories, after Barcelona won their 2017 Super Globe quarter-final against Esperance Sportive de Tunisie 42:24 and Vardar beat Naf-O-Gas-Gachsaran 30:22. Barcelona appeared more focused in their encounter, with coach Xavi Pascual using the 60 minutes to practice tactics and different combinations, which would seem to indicate they have the upper hand in this match – but Vardar have the confidence brought by the 2016/17 season’s results. 

Semi-final: Al Sadd (QAT) vs Füchse Berlin (GER) 19:00 local time

2015 and 2016 Super Globe champions will continue their quest to defend the title against the host team Al Sadd, after winning their quarter-final encounter against Esporte Clube Pinheiros by two goals. It was not an easy victory for the German side, who only secured the win in the last minutes when Mattias Zachrisson created the decisive two-goal score line they held to the final whistle. 

Berlin are likely ready to step up their game in the next stage however, as they certainly know how to successfully play an IHF Super Globe competition having raised the trophy on two consecutive occasions. The team relied on a strong all-round performance with almost every squad member contributing to the opening win and Petar Nenadic leading with seven goals. 

Just as they did in 2016, the defending champions will play the hosts Al Sadd in the semi-final – and will certainly hope that last year’s final score of 32:26 serves as a positive sign of what to expect against the Asian team. Just like Berlin, Al Sadd can count on a deep squad, though perhaps the biggest threat to the European team’s chances is the superb goalkeeper Danijel Saric.