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07.01.2018, 11:10
"I love playing for my country and this team"
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Macedonian superstar Kiril Lazarov is showing no signs of slowing down and hopes for EURO success in a city and country he loves
 

"I love playing for my country and this team"

Over 1,500 goals in almost 200 international matches, record World Championship scorer with 92 goals in 2009, record scorer of an EHF EURO with 61 goals in 2012, twice EHF Champions League top scorer, more than 1,000 goals in the Champions League and other European Cup competitions. If anyone in international handball deserves to be called a goal machine, it is Kiril Lazarov.

Even at the age of 37, the Macedonian right back is still on fire, banging in the most goals at the 2017 World Championship and in qualification for this month’s EHF EURO in Croatia.

After playing for Veszprém, Zagreb, Ciudad Real, Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona (VELUX EHF Champions League winner in 2015), the left-hander is now with ambitious French side HBC Nantes.

In this exclusive interview with ehf-euro.com, Lazarov speaks about his nation’s chances in Croatia, his constant motivation and the role of Macedonian fans at EHF EURO 2018.

In the preliminary round, your team will face Germany, Slovenia and Montenegro - how do you estimate your chances of progressing?

This is a very exciting and a special group, which basically does not have any underdog. With three Balkan sides and the defending champions, anything can happen, especially when you consider how much fan support the three Balkan teams will have in Croatia. But the big favorite is of course Germany, there is no question.

Why is it so special for you to play against the defending champions?

Because the Germans have a number of outstanding players, all of them signed by European top clubs and all with significant roles there.

They are challenged every week in the Bundesliga and German players know how to play in crucial games, so they are not only my favorite for our preliminary group, but for the European title.

What are the Macedonian goals for the EHF EURO?

This time we have a good mix of young and experienced players in our team and we have a top coach, Raul Gonzalez.

I cannot wait for the EHF EURO to start because you can feel this huge motivation throughout the team. And of course, we will hopefully have vociferous support from our fans in Zagreb.

Will there be as many supporters as there were in 2012 in Serbia?

Right now, everyone at home is talking about the EHF EURO, so I am sure that hundreds, if not thousands of fans will support us.

Of course, a lot depends on our start. If things are going so well, such as 2012 in Serbia, more and more fans will come every day, so it’s in our own hands.

Do you think of Croatia as a good place for you and the Macedonian team, considering you became World Championship record top scorer there in 2009?

I hope that Croatia is a good place for us again. In my opinion, we now have a better, more experienced team than in 2009.

Zagreb should be an even more special place for you, after all, you played there for a long time. How much are you looking forward to returning?

It is going to be special. I spent five important and successful years of my career there. I love the city, I love Croatia and I love the people.

You spoke about the greater experience of your side - how long will this team stay together in the current line-up?

That's a tough question. After failing to qualify for the Olympics, our common dream is to make it to Tokyo 2020. That is also the reason for all veterans to stay with the our side. But we have to tackle this goal step by step, so now you cannot say when the team might change.

You mentioned the importance of coach Raul Gonzalez. Are you more likely play a Spanish style or the classic Balkan style?

We have our Macedonian style and when Raul became our coach, he improved that style - but it is true that he also introduced some Spanish elements.

Since the start of this season you play for HBC Nantes. What is the difference compared to your time in Spain?

The French league is much stronger, the arenas are always full, anyone can beat anyone, the league is much more balanced. For me, after seven years in Spain, this is a completely new experience.

You have played so many international tournaments over the years, is it difficult to motivate yourself at some point - or is the honour of playing for your country as important as it was at the beginning of your career?

I love playing for my country and being part of this team, I love playing handball every day. I am highly motivated and constantly dream of achieving all the goals that I have not yet achieved. But of course a EHF EURO event is an extremely exhausting tournament for me, for my team, for all teams.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor
 
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