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29.08.2017, 17:00
Nico Rönnberg: Cocks are stronger and more experienced this year
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FEATURE: Key player Nico Rönnberg feels sure that Finnish champions Cocks have improved their chances to qualify for the VELUX EHF Champions League compared to last year.
 

Nico Rönnberg: Cocks are stronger and more experienced this year

For the second year in succession, Cocks are attempting to reach the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

The Finnish champions made their debut in the qualifying stage of the tournament last year, but did not progress to the group phase of the competition. According to left back Nico Rönnberg, they are stronger and better prepared this time for the qualification group in Presov, Slovakia in the first weekend of September.

“We are a year older now, and we have become wiser and more experienced, not least from the tough matches we played last year,” Rönnberg tells ehfCL.com.

Last year, at the same venue as this year, Cocks lost their semi-final 28:25 against Slovenian club Gorenje Velenje before defeating Red Boys Differdange from Luxembourg 30:21 in the placement match.

This sent Cocks on to the EHF Cup, where they reached the group phase, but failed to pick up any points.

The Finnish team has undergone very few changes since then, and Rönnberg believes he and his teammates can make use of the experience they picked up in their European matches last season.

“Of course, it gives you experience to play this kind of games,” he says. “The only way to learn how to play tough games is simply by playing them, and in that respect it does not matter if you win or lose them.”

Training with friends

A training camp in Denmark at the beginning of August has been a big part of Cocks' preparations for the new season.

Just like last year, the Finnish champions have spent the month with Danish club KIF Kolding Kobenhavn. Apart from training with the Danish side, Cocks also played a test match against them.

Kolding won that match 34:19, but despite the result, Rönnberg remains confident. He makes no secret of the fact that reaching the Champions League on the second attempt would mean a lot to him personally as well as to the club.

“For the club and for me it is obviously a big thing. It is the biggest tournament in handball, and my personal goal is to some day play in the Champions League,” Rönnberg says. “Hopefully, it will be this season.”

A tough, but not impossible group

Rönnberg and the majority of his teammates from Cocks know the Tatran Arena in Presov well from last year´s Champions League qualifiers, so they should feel at home there.

This year, their opponents in the semi-final will be Sporting CP from Portugal. If they eliminate Sporting, the winner of the match between hosts TATRAN Presov and Austrian Alpla HC Hard will be waiting in the deciding match for the group phase ticket.

Last season, Cocks met another Portuguese team, Benfica, in the EHF Cup. The two games resulted in narrow defeats for the Finnish team, but Rönnberg knows that Sporting are likely to be of a tougher calibre.

“It is a tough group and a tough first opponent, but I think we have a good team, and already last year, we showed our quality in many of the games we played. So, I think we have a chance, but it is obviously not going to be easy,” Rönnberg concludes.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / jh
 
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