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20.04.2018, 14:00
Caucheteux: "Saint-Raphaël are taken more seriously now"
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FEATURE: Eager to get to the finals again, the French side are going into their third straight Men's EHF Cup Quarter-final when they take on Fraikin BM. Granollers on Saturday
 

Caucheteux: "Saint-Raphaël are taken more seriously now"

Saint-Raphaël Var Handball have been gradually going up in the European circuit. In 2017, six years after their first ever EHF Cup participation, the French side made it to the finals tournament, where they lost to Füchse Berlin in the semis.

This season they have got another possibility to be among the four best teams at the Ottostadt Magdeburg EHF Cup Finals on 19-20 May. But before that, they face Fraikin BM. Granollers in the quarter-final, with the first leg to be played in France on Saturday, 21 April, at 20:45 hrs (live on ehfTV.com).

Left wing Raphaël Caucheteux hopes his team's experience will help them qualify.

“We can definitely feel that we are taken more seriously now. This is our third quarter-final in a row and other big clubs in Europe look at us differently,” Caucheteux says. “When Berlin came to play here in the group phase, we could feel that they were 100 percent focused and played one of their best games of the season.”

Only one continental defeat this season

The 34:25 loss against Berlin that day turned out to be Saint-Raphaël's only continental defeat of the season, but one that weighed a lot in the end. It meant the French side finished second of their group and that the return leg of their quarter-final would be an away match - against Group D winners Granollers.

“It's a tiny disappointment. We sure would have wanted to play at home for the return leg,” says Caucheteux, who has scored 50 times so far in the EHF Cup this season. “But things in the past can't be changed, and we've proven our ability to play good away from home this season. We will see if we can bring something positive out of this situation.”

The 32-year-old left wing, who enjoyed his first international competition at the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, thinks that Granollers are slightly favourite to go through.

“They have just beaten Barcelona and Léon, two powerhouses in the Spanish league,” he says. “We, on the other hand, just drew against the last in the French league. So if you look bluntly at the results, they are in better shape than we are.”

Caucheteux hopes for a small advantage before flying to Spain next weekend.

“I think a three- or four- goal win would give us something to rely on before the return leg,” Caucheteux says. “We watched the game Granollers played against Chambéry, and they are a very tough team to beat. Not getting a good result in front of our fans would put us in danger.”

One of five French teams in the race for a European trophy

Saint-Raphaël are just one of five French teams who are still in the race for a European trophy: three teams are in the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals, and two in the EHF Cup, giving France realistic chance of lifting a continental trophy this season.

“French handball has made a lot of progress and this is kind of a confirmation,”  Caucheteux says. “We want to wave the French flag high in the handball sky, and that means going to the finals.”

Also, Saint-Raphaël have still not forgotten about their semi-final defeat last season.

“We were quite frustrated by how things turned out for us in the semi-final last season,” the left wing says. “We want to go back there to make up for that. We have a lot of reasons to qualify.”


TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew
 
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