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18.02.2015, 16:36
Duvnjak: "THW Kiel are a class of their own"
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Playmaker Domagoj Duvnjak talks about his ambitions at THW Kiel, Croatia’s performance at the World Championship and whether he would vote for himself in the 2014 World Handball Player poll
 

Duvnjak: "THW Kiel are a class of their own"

Since the start of the current season Domagoj Duvnjak wears the jersey of German powerhouse THW Kiel. Before this he had been playing for five years at HSV Hamburg in a stint that was crowned by winning the VELUX EHF Champions League in 2013.

In this 'Interview of the Week' with eurohandball.com, the 26-year-old Croat, who was voted 2013 World Handball Player, talks about his ambitions in the VELUX EHF Champions League, the reasons why Croatia missed the semi-final at the World Championship and the honour to be among the nominees for the 2014 World Handball Player of the Year.

On Thursday, Duvnjak and his THW Kiel teammates play their final group match against Meshkov Brest (19:30 hrs, live on ehfTV) – a match of pride for Kiel as the 2007, 2010 and 2012 EHF Champions League winners are already confirmed as group winners.

With the national team the next matches come up at the end of April in the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification when Croatia face Norway in a double-header.

eurohandball.com: THW Kiel are already confirmed as winners of Group A in the VELUX EHF Champions League. How important is this position for the remaining season?
Domagoj Duvnjak: It was our first goal to finish on top of our group. Having the second leg of the Last 16 and hopefully the quarter-finals on home court is very important. Now we are looking forward to the draw next Tuesday (24 February).

eurohandball.com: Is the passage to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne already clear for Kiel?
Domagoj Duvnjak: To make it to Cologne is one of our major targets this season, but we are aware of the knock-out stage of the Champions League. We want to go all the way to the final destination, but we know that there are many obstacles in our way.

eurohandball.com: The last time you played at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 was in 2013, and you and HSV Hamburg returned home with the trophy. Is it your dream to do the same with Kiel again?
Domagoj Duvnjak: Every player has the dream to win the Champions League. But THW Kiel does not only demand this trophy, but all trophies in all competitions like in the German Bundesliga and the German Cup. So it is also my goal to win all three trophies.

eurohandball.com: How do you rate your first season at Kiel so far?
Domagoj Duvnjak: I’m absolutely satisfied, I really like it in Kiel, I feel very comfortable. I was integrated quite quickly, but as for every player, who changes the club, the first one or two months aren’t that easy. The same happened to me. But since then it has been working absolutely well.

eurohandball.com: You play in the same team such as Jicha, Palmarsson, Canellas and Vujin. Does THW have the best back court axis of the world on club level?
Domagoj Duvnjak: This is a tough question. I’m sure that we have an outstanding team with six or seven back court players, who all belong to the world class category. But regardless the names you have in your squad, it only counts on the court. If you don’t perform well, names are nothing than smoke and mirrors.

eurohandball.com: Talking about the national team – Croatia missed the semi-finals at the World Championship 2015 in Qatar. What were the reasons and the problems?
Domagoj Duvnjak: Our first goal was to rank among the best seven teams to book the ticket for the Olympic Games qualification tournaments. This goal we accomplished – but unfortunately this was the only thing we ticked off.

We wanted to make it to the semi-final, but at first we had a tough Last 16 match against Brazil and then we did not manage to benefit from a three-goal lead in the second half of the quarter-final against Poland. One or two shots in the dying minutes decided this match – but this is sports. We nearly made it to all semi-finals in the past ten years, but not in Qatar. Still life goes on. 

eurohandball.com: Did you know beforehand that national team coach Slavko Goluza will quit his job?
Domagoj Duvnjak: No, I got to know it when I was already in Kiel. Now it is a matter of our federation to deal with the situation. I had six great years with Slavko and I wish him all the best for his future. Now I’m curious who will be the new coach and when he will be announced…

eurohandball.com: …as already at the beginning of April the next qualification matches for the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland are on your agenda…
Domagoj Duvnjak: ..and then we want to beat Norway twice to secure the EURO tickets as early as possible.

eurohandball.com: You are the current IHF World Handball Player of the Year. What is the significance for yourself to be among the nominees again?
Domagoj Duvnjak: It's a big honour, I feel very proud and pleased.

eurohandball.com: Beside yourself, your THW Kiel teammate Joan Canellas and former THW players Thierry Omeyer and Nikola Karabatic are nominated. What does this mean for your club?
Domagoj Duvnjak: It proves again that THW Kiel is a class of its own, being able to have the best players of the world in its squad.

Be honest: Would you vote for Domagoj Duvnjak?
Domagoj Duvnjak (laughing and reflecting): Ok: I played a good EHF EURO 2014 and reached the semi-final with Croatia. My last half of the 2013/14 season in Hamburg was not that bad and my start in Kiel was good. But I would have nominated Steffen Weinhold. He became Champions League winner with Flensburg and shows outstanding performances since he is at THW. And also Aron Palmarsson would be on my list – but then there would be just Kiel players...


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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