“We are the underdogs,” says Gudmundsson
He led the club to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne in his first season as coach of Rhein Neckar Löwen and two seasons later Gudmundur Gudmundsson has made it to another final tournament, the EHF Cup Finals in Nantes.
The Icelandic coach will lead his team into the semi-final against German Bundesliga rivals Göppingen and estimates that the rejuvenated Löwen are underdogs in Nantes.
eurohandball.com: Did you plan before the season to be part of the EHF Cup Finals with Rhein Neckar Löwen?
Gudmundur Gudmundsson: Not at all. Eight players left our club, seven newcomers, mostly young players, had to be integrated, additionally the average age in our team decreased from 29 to 25 years old and our budget needed to be cut.
However, we started brilliantly in the Bundesliga and even more sensationally were on top after the first half of the season. We took this impetus from domestic to international competition.
Although we had a tough group with traditionally strong opponents like Kolding and Presov, we managed to finish first. Then we had another tough opponent in the quarter-finals, facing Magdeburg, but we managed it again. We had and have a huge number of injury cases in our team, but the squad consolidated very quick.
eurohandball.com: After Magdeburg in the quarter-finals, Löwen will face another German team, Göppingen, in the semi-final at Nantes. Is that an unlucky draw in your opinion?
Gudmundur Gudmundsson: Maybe it is not unlucky, but strange, it is really a pity to have another German opponent ahead.
eurohandball.com: Is there a favourite in this all-German clash?
Gudmundur Gudmundsson: Frisch Auf Göppingen are the defending champions and therefore they are the favourite. We are the underdogs, but have a team hungry for success. However, in terms of experience, Göppingen are clearly ahead of us.
eurohandball.com: Is there any hunger for revenge in your team after losing the EHF Cup semi-final 2012 against Göppingen?
Gudmundur Gudmundsson: No, as a big part of our team had not played in those matches. In this case the past doesn’t count, only the future.
eurohandball.com: Do you believe that the winner of your semi-final is the favourite for winning the trophy at Nantes?
Gudmundur Gudmundsson: This is hard to say and to predict. In my opinion, HBC Nantes are the favourites, because they play at home, which can give them wings. Besides that, they could prepare with intensity for the EHF Cup Finals and did not lose any power from playing in the quarter-finals.
eurohandball.com: Although you do not consider your team as the favourite in Nantes – Rhein Neckar Löwen can potentially win the first ever title in their club history, how does that feel?
Gudmundur Gudmundsson: The answer on this question is so far away. It reflects the development of our team that we made it to the EHF Cup Finals and that we can fight for the title. But I will not think about this question about raising the trophy before our semi-final.
TEXT: Björm Pazen / cor