On the road to Nantes: Siffert
HBC Nantes’ Arnaud Siffert has been a key player this season with his club and has helped secure their place at their home EHF Cup Finals.
The French goalkeeper, who joined the club in 2011, speaks to eurohandball.com about the season so far.
eurohandball.com: It's been a long journey in the competition this season, with nearly six months between your first knock-out round and qualification for the EHF Cup Finals.
Arnaud Siffert: Yes. There's been a lot of expectation between the Dunkerque game last June when we secured qualification and the first games against Lisbon.
The squad had undergone some changes. The definitive objective was for us to qualify for the Group Phase of this EHF Cup. To have made such efforts and then stumble in the preliminary matches would have been a disappointment.
eurohandball.com: How important was it to go to Bacau for the first of the Group Phase games and get off to a strong start?
Arnaud Siffert: It was really important for us because we knew that, if we couldn't be first in the group, Magdeburg would be. We had to create a gap from the beginning between us and the other two teams, Bacau and Besiktas.
To start with a very good collective showing and with some passion was essential. We very quickly realised that, at home or abroad, we would have to fight to gain wins.
eurohandball.com: The team reacted very well in Magdeburg after the home loss in the previous game. What happened in that home match?
Arnaud Siffert: The first match against the Germans was probably the worst of our campaign. We certainly put too much pressure on our shoulders because we were at home against one of the favourites and at the end we were defeated by seven goals. It was a strange feeling because on the court, it didn't feel like we were being dominated.
eurohandball.com: Was the home loss a good lesson for the team before the return game in Germany?
Arnaud Siffert: Definitely. We learnt from it and this time we completely went for it, without thinking about anything. We had an excellent first half, where everything went our way, and then we didn't want to throw everything in the bin by being not concentrated enough.
Even though we were quite disappointed by the draw, we quickly comforted ourselves by thinking that the road to the quarter-finals was almost complete.
eurohandball.com: Then on to the final round, away against Besiktas. A victory could give you a ticket for the quarter-finals but you would still have to wait until the other results to know if you would go straight through to the EHF Cup Finals.
Arnaud Siffert: With every match, the ambition becomes bigger and bigger and this time we were really hungry.
On paper, it looked like a tricky match, we could have lost everything. As soon as the game ended, we wanted more, even though we had won the match, because just being in quarter-finals didn't seem enough.
eurohandball.com: Did you think that a direct path to the EHF Cup Finals was likely before Presov gave you the most unexpected of gifts?
Arnaud Siffert: That was the first game that could have sent us through. Personally, I was especially impatient to see the result of the game between Göppingen and La Rioja, it felt like such a relief when the Germans won.
eurohandball.com: Who do you think are the favourites to meet you in Nantes?
Arnaud Siffert: Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Kolding and Göppingen. They were my favourites before the start of the competition, and it so happens that the draw has been quite nice to them.
eurohandball.com: You have got a month and a half left before the EHF Cup Finals and two competitions to take care of. How do you predict the pinnacle of your season to be?
Arnaud Siffert: No matter what our opponents will be, we'll be the underdogs there. We have nothing to lose and we've learnt a couple of lessons from the French League Cup that we lost at home. We'll have to milk these moments, we have to learn too. Over two games, anything is possible.
TEXT: Gael Louise, Kevin Domas / cor