– Andy Schmid doesn’t play, but Scout still comes away empty-handed
Scout Winterthur lost the top match of the NLA with a 26:33 home defeat against HC Kriens-Luzern. And the best opponent was just sitting on the bench.
Pfupfi, the new mascot of Scouts, is now also at home on Lake Lucerne. Andy Schmid, the best handball player Switzerland has ever had, said goodbye to the Rhein Neckar Löwen and the Bundesliga in June 2022 with a pack of stuffed animals that represented various people and groups. Scout and Cédrie Tynowski, his friend from the national team, who is still missing from the Winterthur team due to a concussion, did a similar thing and gave Schmid a farewell picture and a miniature Pfupfi version in the form of a cuddly toy before the game.
The reason: If Scout and HC Kriens-Luzern do not meet in the playoff, this match on Saturday would be Schmid’s last appearance as a club handball player in the Axa Arena. He will make his Winterthur debut as a national player at the Yellow Cup from January 4th to 6th.
Well, Schmid was there and was visibly happy about the honor. But he didn’t play. “It was in the interests of me and the team” that he watched from the bench against Scout for 60 minutes. The 40-year-old, who is ending his career at the end of the season and becoming the Swiss national coach, spoke of “load management” for him and of a “smooth transition” in the team. National player Jonas Schelker took over his role as director of HC Kriens-Luzern. Schmid said after the 33:26 victory, to which Schelker contributed eleven goals: “I couldn’t have played better than him.”
Schmid has only been on the match sheet six times in the championship this season, although he no longer feels the Achilles tendon injury from the playoff final. In the European League, however, he is the top scorer (ahead of scout Noam Leopold), and next Tuesday he should compete again in the last group match.
The individual class
Even though Schmid wasn’t pulling the strings, scout coach Goran Cvetkovic had to say after the second home defeat of the NLA season: “They beat us today with their individual class.”
Because the Kriens team, more experienced and international, never allowed themselves to lose control of the game. From 2:3 onwards they were always in the lead. Five minutes before the end of the first half it was already 11:18. With the seventh field player, the Winterthur team became more productive and reduced the lead to 16:19 at the break.
Nothing seemed lost yet. Not even when it was 22:25 after 44 minutes. But then the missed throws increased again, while the HCKL pulled away to 26:33 by the end. “We were always a step too late,” said Cvetkovic. Noam Leopold, even though he missed four promising goals, was once again the offensive asset with eleven goals. This also applied to pivot Tomas Moreira, who scored two goals and won six of the seven penalties. The five goals from backcourt shooter Arsenije Dragasevic were also positive. Things went less well for Tim Rellstab, the NLA’s best field goal scorer, and playmaker Kevin Jud, who seems a little out of shape.
What wasn’t good either: the Winterthur team conceded too many goals from long-range shots. Goalie Dennis Wipf had strong scenes from close range, but the throws from distance were missed. “They threw with a lot of confidence,” said Cvetkovic about the opponents.
The bottom line was, as Scout’s coach also said, “the better team” won. The Winterthur team will have to improve if they want to successfully survive the Cup round of 16 in Kriens on December 23rd.
Scout had a day to forget, the performance wasn’t really bad, but just not compelling enough. The performance on the previous Tuesday with the 32:31 home win in the European League against Velenje was noticeably better.
The “beautiful, unique opportunity” in Spain
“Don’t think about it too much and check it out,” says Cvetkovic about Saturday’s defeat. The trip to Spain continues on Monday. In Cuenca, around 170 kilometers from Madrid, the Winterthur team will play for a place in the main round of the European League on Tuesday night. They have to get one point more than Velenje, which is hosting the previously undefeated leader Sävehof in Slovenia.
The Swedes are unlikely to let up in Velenje, even if they have long since qualified for the main round. The points from the previous group games are taken there. “But we’re not looking at Velenje,” emphasizes Cvetkovic. Because his team has their job to do first. And it won’t be easy against the experienced runner-up in the last Spanish championship, who lost 32:28 in Winterthur and has a chance for revenge.
“We know what this game means for us,” explains Cvetkovic. «It’s a beautiful, unique opportunity for us. And for Swiss handball.” If everything works out on Tuesday, Scouts will survive a group stage in European competition for the first time since the 2003/04 Champions League.
Urs Stanger is head of the sports department of the Zurich regional newspapers. Towards the end of the typewriter age he began journalism.More info