EHF Cup countdown, part 13: HBC Nantes (FRA)
“Spanish eyes” is not only a famous song, but also the new character of HBC Nantes: Three newly crowned world champions are in the squad of the French team, playing in only their second season in Europe, but are already among the favourites in the newly restructured EHF Cup.
After Valero Rivera junior, son of the Spanish national team coach Valero Rivera, was the first Spaniard to come, Nantes signed Jorge Maqueda and Alberto Entrerrios before the start of this season, Entrerrios lifted the World Championship trophy in Barcelona as team captain.
The major success of this trio will be a boost for HBC Nantes’ upcoming matches of, as is the fact that the French club is the organizer of the first EHF Cup Finals.
If Nantes finish first in their group or is among the three best second ranked teams, they directly qualify for the Finals in May, without having to play the quarter-final.
Everyone involved in the club is confident that HBC will be among the four best teams, which will be a perfect birthday present for the 60th anniversary of the club in 2013.
Surprisingly, HBC Nantes are the only French team among the 16 participants in the Group Phase, after St. Raphael were eliminated in the third round.
Nantes did not have it all their own way either, after a clear 29:21 win in the first leg of Round 3, they were made to fight for their lead, losing 22:28 at Portuguese side Benfica Lisboa.
Now Nantes do not only hope to reach their final destination on home court, but also want to finish among the top four in the French league again to qualify for European Cup competitions next season.
For Gaël Pelletier, President of HBC Nantes, the qualification for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup was “a very important objective, because we need international recognition as we are a young club in the elite of handball in France.
“I know that the notoriety of a club comes through his results in European Cup competitions. Our objective is to finish first or second in our group.”
Top star Alberto Entrerrios, member of the All Star Team at the 2013 World Championship and winner of several trophies in European Cup competitions with Spanish clubs, enjoys the challenge.
“The club is really young in the French elite and on the international floor. Even if I had played many European Cup and VELUX EHF Champions League matches with other teams, everything is really new for me this season.
“Obviously, I am playing my last seasons of my career and I want to make the most of it so I hope we will make a long way in this EHF Cup. We are a young team but we wish to create a very good European adventure.”
Three questions to coach Thierry Anti:
What are your expectations for the Group Phase of the EHF Cup - concerning your objectives and your group opponents?
Thierry Anti: We have to win at least one away match to be among the two first clubs in our group. As this international adventure is relatively new for the club, I had, in my favour, much participation in the European Cup before. So, I know what I have to expect.
What does the participation in the Group Phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Thierry Anti: To be a part of the 16 best teams of this new EHF Cup means a big step regarding the international progress of the club. We have a beautiful opportunity to write a new page in our history, if with delight, we get to play the final tournament.
Furthermore, I estimate the confidence given by the EHF to the club. It is extraordinary to organise the Final Tournament in Nantes and I know that the club will be worthy of that.
What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Thierry Anti: Magdeburg, Kolding, Plock, and HBC Nantes.
HBC Nantes (FRA) – Group D
The road to the Group Phase:
Round 3: 29:21, 22:28 against S.L. Benfica
Coach: Thierry Anti, since 2009
Newcomers: Gunnar Jonsson (Halmstad/SWE), Jorge Maqueda (Aragon/ESP), Alberto Etrerrios (Atletico Madrid/ESP), O’Brian Nyateu (first professional contract)
Left the club: Kim Ekdahl du Rietz (Rhein-Neckar Löwen/GER), Yann Polydore (Cesson/FRA), Bruno Pages (Bordeaux/FRA), Nemanja Pribak (Skopje/MKD)
Biggest successes in EHF European Cup competitions:
EHF Cup: 1 appearance – Round 3 2011/12
Born on 19 February 1959
Thierry Anti is coach of HBC Nantes for the fourth season after he had been the head coach of Paris Handball for six years from 2004 to 2009 and before was coach in his home club US Creteil after he had finished his player career there.
Anti led Creteil to four French Cup trophies and added another trophy with Paris to his tally, after winning three league titles as a player with Creteil (division 1) and Pontault-Combault (division 2).
Born on 22 February 1985
Newly crowned world champion has handball in his veins, as his father is the most successful coach in the history of handball with 70 titles on club level with FC Barcelona and the recent world championship title. Of course, Valero junior, playing on the left wing position, started his career in Barcelona, later transferring to Aragon, Algericas, and Octavio, before he left Spain in 2010 to join HBC Nantes.
Last season, Rivera was voted best left wing and most valuable player in the French league and was the league’s top scorer. Currently the Spaniard ranks second in the league’s top scorer list.
Born on 18 August 1982
The French left back, who became team captain when he arrived in Nantes 2010, was voted “best defender” in the previous season of the French league. Feliho started his professional career in 2000, when joining Sélestat Alsace Handball.
Four years later he transferred for two seasons to HBC Villefranche Handball, before he crossed the German border to play for TSG Münster and later first league team HBW Balingen-Weilstetten, where he was contracted for four seasons, before he returned home to join Nantes in 2010.
Find more information on HBC Nantes here
The schedule of the Men´s EHF Cup Group Phase can be found here
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor