Tiselj: Semi-final is Krim’s objective
Krim Mercator have twice won the Women’s EHF Champions League – and now the club from the Slovenian capital Ljubljana have a minimum target of reaching the semi-finals, as coach Tone Tiselj explains in this exclusive interview with ehfCL.com before their first match against U Jolidon Cluj. But his team has to cope with a long list of injured key players.
ehfCL.com: On Sunday you start the Group Matches of the Women’s EHF Champions League with a home match against Cluj. What are your expectations for this season?
Tone Tiselj: When we have our full squad we can beat any team of the world, but we haven’t had all our players in a single training session since the start of the season.
ehfCL.com: What had happened?
Tone Tiselj: Currently, of course, the biggest shock for us was when Daniela Piedade suffered a stroke. We first hope that she fully recovers and later, we hope that she might return to the handball court. She is the player with the best physical conditions I have ever trained, so I really cannot understand what happened to her.
ehfCL.com: Piedade is one of many injured newcomers for you…
Tone Tiselj: Yes, Linnea Torstensson arrived with a disease from the Olympics and could not be part of the team training sessions for a long time. Susann Müller started brilliantly, but maybe it was too much for her as then was then out with a knee injury for two weeks, but now returned. And Carmen Martin was even hit harder with her severe knee injury during the Olympics. But it is not only the newcomers, who are injured: Andrea Penezic has not trained at all since her ankle injury at the Olympics, so there is a real curse on the team at the moment.
ehfCL.com: You mentioned the famous newcomers like Martin, Piedade or Wörz. Is it a special challenge for you to coach this newly-formed team?
Tone Tiselj: Of course, Krim are aiming to return to the top of Europe, where we had been 10, 12 years ago when we won the EHF Women’s Champions League twice. With the new squad – in case it is complete – we have a really good chance to go all the way and help us forget some of the less successful seasons. After previously signing mostly players from East or South-East Europe, the club has changed strategy now to get the best Western and Central European players to Ljubljana.
ehfCL.com: Was it hard to sign those players?
Tone Tiselj: No! Krim was always known as a multicultural team, Ljubljana is an open-minded multicultural city in the heart of Europe – and we invited all aspirants to see our club and see our city, so they knew what to expect. And I am convinced that those girls will make a positive contribution to our club.
ehfCL.com: The team’s preparation was different this year, and not only because of those injuries…
Tone Tiselj: Yes, every four years it is nearly impossible to prepare a team to be fit for the start, because of the Olympics. Seven of our players had been in London, and either they returned injured or disappointed. Look at our most experienced player, Liudmila Bodnieva. She returned from London not really injured, but mentally and physically exhausted. Currently she is only able to train ten per cent of what she usually does.
ehfCL.com: So will it be a difficult start for your team in the Women’s EHF Champions League?
Tone Tiselj: It all depends on what players are able to return. Carmen Martin, Susann Müller and Linnea Torstensson hopefully will be on the field, Bodnieva can play, but she isn’t back to her best. And our second German newcomer Nina Wörz – who was not injured as our only newcomer – can hopefully return to her usual playmaker position. Unfortunately she had to fill the gaps at left back - but she is used to it, which helped us a lot.
ehfCL.com: How do you rate the opponents in your group?
Tone Tiselj: We have to compete in the strongest of all groups. Györ are nearly identical to last season when they reached the final, and will be even more successful now. They are one of the big favourites to win the title. Podravka have improved year on year and are a really strong contender on home ground. And Cluj – if you beat Rostov in the qualification then you have proof that you belong to the European top teams.
ehfCL.com: So the first Krim objective is to reach the Main Round?
Tone Tiselj: Of course you have to go step by step. But after reaching the Main Round in all previous seasons, our aim is to go the next step and reach the semi-finals, and then we will see what happens. I think we can play a good role in this season - if our injury curse will come to an end sometimes.
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TEXT: Björn Pazen / br