FEATURE: The 23-year-old Latvian right back from Tatran Presov sees the challenges his team faces in the EHF Cup Group Phase, but he still believes in the team's chances to reach the quarter-finals
There are no easy opponents at this stage, says Kristopans
When their VELUX EHF Champions League dream was over for Tatran Presov already in summer 2013 despite hosting the qualification tournament, the players around head coach Peter Hatalčík were disappointed, yet eager to prove that they have what it takes to compare with the best in Europe.
The EHF Cup knockout stage was the goal they set for themselves.
Now that the EHF Cup Group Phase has reached half-time break, Tatran Prešov find themselves ranked third in Group C with only two points, behind the leading Szeged and Nantes on second.
The situation is not easy, but right back Dainis Kristopans sees no reason to panic.
Struggling against the best
The tallest player of the competition, at 2,15 metres, believes the ‘Road to Berlin’ is not over yet.
"We can’t be satisfied with the achievements so far in the EHF Cup. We had a good start at home against Kristiandstad, but we failed to deliver our best in Nantes where our little crisis started.
"We lost there by 10 goals, we had a difficult and long journey to Nantes, were short of several injured players.
"They outplayed us in defence, it was incredibly hard for us to get through their wall."
Great in attack, gaps in defence
Tatran are ranked third despite having scored more goals than any other team in Group C – but they also conceded the most.
Kristopans believes this is because of the Presov’s approach to the games.
"We try to play smart, be quick after we concede goals and try to win the ball back to get into counter attacks.
"That´s why we score lot of goals, but at the same time, sometimes our sharp approach costs us dearly.
"We work hard to improve our defence constantly. It´s difficult against clubs like Szeged or Nantes, but there are no easy opponents at this stage."
Impossible is nothing
After the close 29:31 defeat to group leaders Szeged at home, Presov need to surprise at least one of the two favourites to keep their dreams alive.
"The away game at Szeged will be extremely hard. They showed super class in Presov and they will be even stronger at home. They form one of the best European clubs at the moment," says Kristopans.
"I believe we have more chances against Nantes. We were tired, after series of difficult matches there. Our coach will prepare the tactics to overcome their great defence.
"We hope our fans will create a hot atmosphere that will push us forward. It is definitely within our abilities to beat them.
"Our dream of reaching the quarter-finals is still alive and we need to fight for it, until the last second of the last match."
Presov ‘s best result to date in the EHF Cup is the quarter-final in the 2011/2012 season.
Their away match at Szeged takes place on 15 March at 18:30 hrs local time. They then travel to Kristianstad, Sweden to play local side IFK one week later.
TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / ts
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