Petkovic expects an interesting weekend ahead
He had won the Champions Cup (forerunner of the EHF Champions League) as a player with his former club Banja Luka and has raised the EHF Cup trophy twice in 2011 and 2012 with Frisch Auf Göppingen, a club he has been with for nine seasons.
In this interview, 58-year-old Velimir Petkovic talks about his hopes before the first ever EHF Cup Finals in Nantes. His team will face German rivals Rhein Neckar Löwen in the semi-final.
eurohandball.com: Göppingen are the defending champions of the old EHF Cup format. Did you always expect that your team would be part of the EHF Cup Finals in Nantes?
Velimir Petkovic: No, not at all. The field of participants had a much higher quality than in the previous season. The Group Phase had not been easy and the quarter-finals only consisted of teams that could beat each other, depending on their form on the day.
eurohandball.com: In your opinion: Is it frustrating or an advantage that two German teams face in the semi-final?
Velimir Petkovic: There is no advantage for either of us. Every club wants to have international opponents in an international competition for as long as possible instead of eliminating other teams from the same country, but we have to accept the draw.
eurohandball.com: Is it a good omen that your team had eliminated Rhein Neckar Löwen in the semi-final of last season’s EHF Cup?
Velimir Petkovic: Of course we have this experience, but this will not have major significance in Nantes. In contrast, Rhein Neckar Löwen are playing much stronger this season, compared to last season.
eurohandball.com: Your team lost only one match in the EHF Cup season to date – is this statistic important for you?
Velimir Petkovic: We have developed a great international routine in the current and the previous seasons in the EHF Cup and we hope to continue that form and use it to our advantage in Nantes.
eurohandball.com: What are your general expectations for the EHF Cup Finals in Nantes?
Velimir Petkovic: I expect an atmospheric event with very interesting matches. Thanks to the transfer of Primoz Prost from Montpellier, we have clearly improved and we go into the event with high expectations in our semi-final.
eurohandball.com: To win the trophy at Nantes would mean qualification for bext season’s EHF Cup. Do you have this fact in mind?
Velimir Petkovic: To qualify for the European Cup again would be extremely important for the club. After the brilliant experiences in the previous and current season, we are all eager to play on the international stage again next season.
eurohandball.com: Has it become harder or easier to win the EHF Cup?
Velimir Petkovic: After the merging of two former competitions – EHF Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup under one umbrella and the reduction of Champions League participants some years ago it has become much harder to win the trophy now.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor