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12.05.2016, 09:20
Nantes aim for European final on home court
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SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: EHF Cup Finals hosts Nantes are ready to take on surprise guests Granollers in the hope of playing for their first European trophy.
 

Nantes aim for European final on home court

EHF Cup Finals hosts HBC Nantes hope to win the tournament on home ground this weekend, but qualifying for the final via a semi-final against Fraikin BM. Granollers will not be easy.

Men’s EHF Cup Finals, Semi-final
Fraikin BM. Granollers (ESP) vs HBC Nantes (FRA)
Saturday 14 May, 14:45 local time live on ehfTV

For the second time in four years, HBC Nantes are hosting the EHF Cup Finals. Though they were defeated 26:24 by Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the final in 2013, this time they are well prepared to reach for gold.

“We want to erase the disappointment from 2013. The team has grown up, we are more mature and more used to handling such big occasions,” team captain Rock Feliho said after the semi-final draw was announced.

But is Fraikin BM. Granollers the best draw they could have hoped for?

Even though the Spanish side were not the biggest profiles in the competition's starting line-up in September, they earned their ticket to the tournament the hard way, which would seem to make them all the more dangerous.

Along the way, they recorded several impressive wins, including clear victories against two Danish teams: Aalborg Handball and Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, the latter of which they defeated in the quarter-final stage to earn their place in Nantes.

Even though Granollers only made it to the final weekend due to the away goal rule, Nantes coach Thierry Anti is well aware of the quality of the opponents:


“Just like in football, just like in basketball, Spanish handball teams like to actually play handball. These are very technical players, tactically intelligent, which can adapt to the defence they've got in front of them. The key is to be able to create problems they might not have anticipated.”


Granollers play a somewhat unusual game, considering their top three scorers in the EHF Cup are either line players or wingers, indicating how much the team love to run and make fast breaks.

This recipe has worked very well, from qualifying for the group phase against Norwegian side OIF Arendal to arriving in Nantes to reclaim a trophy Granollers has not won in twenty years.

The Spanish side won the EHF Cup trophy two seasons in a row, in 1995 and 1996, before disappearing under the radar. Granollers resurfaced on the international stage in 2010, when they were defeated in the Cup Winners' Cup Final by VfL Gummersbach.

HBC Nantes might not have the same rich European history, but they are ready to get their hands on the trophy.

After defeating Croatian side RK Nexe away in the qualification rounds early in the competition, the French team finished first in what was seen as the hardest group of the group phase.

Conceding only one defeat to Frisch Auf Göppingen and beating Team Tvis Holstebro twice, Nantes grabbed a direct ticket to the final weekend, which will take place in the brand new La Trocardière Arena.

Nantes are in a good position ahead of the home event, with stars like top scorer Valero Rivera Folch and key back court player Nicolas Claire in excellent form.

They also added two new players, Uros Bundalo and Sime Ivic, to the team in January, which has made things even more comfortable for them.

The French side are currently second in the domestic league, and aim to play the VELUX EHF Champions League next season – but before that, they would very much like to win ‘their’ finals weekend.


TEXT: Kevin Domas / cg, cor
 
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