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23.05.2018, 14:27
Puhalak: "I hope there are many things yet to come"
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ahead of the final rounds of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, 21-year-old Szidonia Puhalak discusses her recent debut for Hungary, the status of the rebuilding national squad and Györ’s EHF Champions League title win
 

Puhalak: "I hope there are many things yet to come"

21-year-old Szidonia Puhalak is one of the brightest prospects in Hungarian handball. The left wing joined the Hungary squad in March this year for rounds 3 and 4 of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, and two months later, claimed her second EHF Champions League title with Györ.

Hungary opened the EHF EURO Qualification with victories against Kosovo (37:12) and Belarus (25:18), and then played a double header versus EHF EURO 2016 runners-up the Netherlands – when Puhalak made her national team debut and contributed four goals.

In two nail-biting matches, Hungary were defeated 18:19 in Györ, then won 23:22 in Eindhoven. Hungary are now on six points at the top of the table alongside the Netherlands, but must take two wins in the remaining games if they wish to control their own fate and book the ticket to France.

Ahead of the two matches against Kosovo (May 30) and Belarus (June 2), ehf-euro.com spoke with Puhalak about her recent EHF Champions League title, the current status of the national team, and her own career.

Both matches will be streamed live on ehfTV.

ehf-euro.com: Congratulations on your recent EHF Champions League title with Györ. It seems the team's win means a lot to the whole of Hungary, not just the city itself… 
Szidonia Puhalak: I think it’s a great success not only for the team of Audi ETO KC, but for the whole of Hungarian handball and for the entire Hungarian sport. The fact that there are good Hungarian teams in the EHF Champions League also shows the power of the sport in Hungary. Since our victory, we have met with many fans and all of them are very happy. Many of our supporters have told us that they hardly believed we could win because of the injuries we suffered from this season. It also gives such happiness to the team. 

ehf-euro.com: You personally are in an exciting stage of your career, playing in the EHF Champions League and joining the senior national team. How are you feeling about your own career right now?
Szidonia Puhalak: I can say that I fulfilled all my goals what I wanted to reach when I started to play handball, to play for the team of Györ and to be the member of the national team. But I hope there are many things yet to come. I would like to play even more in Györ and also in the national team.

Fortunately, I avoided all injuries this season and we could say that this year has been a breakthrough for me. I developed a lot, not only as a handball player, but also professionally and mentally. I had ups and downs, but my trainers, Ambros Martin and Gabor Danyi helped a lot, and also my teammates.

We learned a lot from each other: how to enjoy every training and every match and how to concentrate to be the best. I think that could also be a decisive factor in the extra time of the Champions League final. The fans could see that we were smiling, we were relaxed, but we concentrated on the next thing to do and that could be the key to our success.  

ehf-euro.com: Hungary have had a very strong qualification phase after some disappointing recent international tournaments. How do you see the status of the team now?
Szidonia Puhalak: I can say I’m a freshman in the team for this EURO qualifier series, but I think we progress in a good way and it is good to be in the national team. We have also been afflicted by injuries and the composition of the squad changes continuously, but we are all able to fight for each other. I think that was the key in our last match, when we beat the Netherlands in Eindhoven. It was a great victory and made us believe in ourselves. 

ehf-euro.com: What was the goal for Hungary ahead of the qualification phase – simply to qualify, win the group, or something else?
Szidonia Puhalak: Our obvious goal was to qualify for the EHF EURO 2018, but we always only focus on the next match. 

ehf-euro.com: You have two important qualification matches remaining. Knowing you beat these same opponents, Kosovo and Belarus, comfortably before, how do you feel ahead of these games?
Szidonia Puhalak: There are two matches to go at the end of this very long season, and also two matches to win. We have the opportunity to win our qualifying group with two more victories, so we will do our best.

Photo: Aniko Kovacs / HHF


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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