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04.10.2018, 10:30
Metz eye first FINAL4 berth
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Women's EHF Champions League countdown: Metz Handball (FRA). The French side are going for their third straight quarter-final appearance, or even one step further
 

Metz eye first FINAL4 berth

It took Metz Handball 17 seasons to finally reach the Women’s EHF Champions League Quarter-finals. They first did it in 2016/17, and repeated the feat last season.

While reaching the knockout stage was considered a good result last year, this time Metz are eager to at least get back to the quarter-finals. And, thanks to several newcomers, maybe go further.

Three questions before the season:

- How will Metz make up for Ana Gros’ departure?


The Slovenian right back was the biggest asset in Metz’s offensive system last season. But Gros has joined French league rivals Brest, forcing coach Emmanuel Mayonnade to re-think his playing system. Aleksandra Zych arrived to replace her but she will probably need some time to settle in. Also, new signing Gnonsiane Niombla is able to play on the right back position.

- Can Metz be the first French club to qualify for Budapest?

“We have lost our two quarter-finals in the previous seasons so now we really want to do better, meaning going to the FINAL4.” That is a bold statement coming from team captain Grace Zaadi. While Metz failed against eventual champions Györ two years ago, they completely fell apart in the first leg against CSM Bucuresti last season. Despite some roster changes, Emmanuel Mayonnade believes “the team really can do better than last season.”

- How fit is goalkeeper Laura Glauser?

The French national goalkeeper gave birth to her daughter in March after missing most of the season. She resumed training this summer and is not yet back at 100 percent, but she is making progress with every game. Until she becomes the dominant player again she once was, former Podravka Koprivnica goalkeeper Ivana Kapitanovic seems ready to take on the No. 1 duties.

Under the spotlight: Gnonsiane Niombla

Two years ago, the French national team player left Fleury les Aubrais to start an international adventure at CSM Bucuresti. She helped the Romanian side to third place at the Women’s EHF FINAL4 2017 but only got limited playing time in the following season. She decided to come back home, to Metz, with the EHF EURO 2018 in the back of her mind. Able to play on all back court positions, she will be one of the keys to Metz’s success.

Self-esteem

With a group consisting of Buducnost, Odense and Larvik, Metz firmly believe they can make it to the main round. “We already know that it will not be easy to pass the first round but we are working hard for that,” Emmanuel Mayonnade says. The coach not only targets a spot in the quarter-finals, he also wants to win the French league and cup.

Fun fact

With five summer signings and four players moving on to other teams, this has been the busiest transfer period for Metz since 2014. But not everything has to be rebuilt in the east of France. Some new arrivals are familiar with the team’s style of play as they have played in the national team along the likes of Manon Houette and Grace Zaadi. And others, like goalkeeper Ivana Kapitanovic and Aleksandra Zych, will have to time to settle in.

What the numbers say

20. That’s the number of Metz’s participations in the Women’s EHF Champions League. Only three teams have had more appearances in Europe’s top flight: Buducnost, Krim and Hypo Niederösterreich, which all have started 24 times. But Metz are ahead of former winners like Györ and Larvik.

Metz Handball (FRA)

Qualification for Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: French champions

Newcomers: Aleksandra Zych (Vistal Gdynia), Ivana Kapitanovic (Podravka Koprivnica), Astride N’Gouan (Brest), Gnonsiane Niombla (CSM Bucuresti), Sharon Nooitmeer (Dalfsen)

Left the club: Laurisa Landre (Toulon), Marina Rajcic (Buducnost), Ana Gros (Brest), Kyra Csapo (Dunaujvaros)

Coach: Emmanuel Mayonnade (since January 2015)

Team captain: Grace Zaadi

Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 20
Quarter-finals (2): 2016/17, 2017/18
Main Round (2): 2011/12, 2014/15
Last 16 (2): 1994/95, 1995/96
Last 32 (1): 1993/94
Group Matches (8): 1996/97, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2013/14
Qualification (4): 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:

Final: 2012/13, Quarter-finals: 2000/01, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2007/08

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-finals: 1998/99, 2003/04, 2009/10, 2010/11

French league:
22 titles (1989, 1990, 1993-1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004-2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)

French cup:
8 titles (1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017)


TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew
 
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