INTERVIEW: The Montpellier head coach speaks about the upcoming EHF Cup Finals, his team's chances and why thinks that experience is not a matter of age
Canayer looks forward to amazing handball party
For 20 consecutive seasons head coach Patrice Canayer has been at the helm of Montpellier Agglomeration HB. Every year the club qualified for a European Cup competition, crowning all efforts with the EHF Champions League victory in 2003.
Sending a young team this season which is backed by experienced players such as Thierry Omeyer and Vid Kavticnik onto the court, Canayer now looks forward to playing the EHF Cup Finals on 17/18 May in Berlin.
In the semi-final on Saturday they will meet HCM Constanta from Romania.
eurohandball.com: Patrice, eleven years after winning the Champions League, you have the opportunity to win the EHF Cup. How do you compare the two?
Patrice Canayer: I think that nothing will ever compare to the first time you win a European Cup. The feeling of being the first French club to win the Champions League was unique. But waiting another eleven years to have the next opportunity to win a continental trophy is a really, really long time. So there is excitement and a lot of anticipation in Montpellier.
eurohandball.com: Has it been hard focusing on the EHF Cup after being eliminated from the EHF Champions League?
Patrice Canayer: I think we all took a blow when we lost in Plock. But very soon after, winning the EHF Cup became a real goal. There would have been no point playing the competition without wanting to go as far as possible. Montpellier have always had a winning tradition, and there are a lot of players in this squad that are hungry for trophies.
You've won all ten games in the competition. Did you think it would be that easy making it to the Finals?
Patrice Canayer: It hasn't been easy at all. We nearly lost a couple of our games, at Nantes, at Lisbon - and Skjern have been tough opponents the two times we faced them. I think numbers can be very deceptive, and to see that teams such as Nantes, Chambéry, Léon or Hannover aren't taking part in the Finals shows how close the competition has been.
eurohandball.com: You spoke of Lisbon, of Nantes, of Skjern. What has been your toughest game in the competition?
Patrice Canayer: I think it's equally the first game against Nantes and the return game against Skjern. Nantes were capable of winning and I felt it was very important for them, because they had never won against us. I think the Skjern game at home was a tough one for us, there was a lot of tiredness in the squad and we won only courtesy of our experience.
eurohandball.com: You speak of experience when, in fact, you have a lot of young players in your squad. How is that possible?
Patrice Canayer: Well, we have Thierry Omeyer in goal, and he's bringing a lot of it to the table. And the other ones, even though they're young, have played the Champions League, important games with their national teams, games from which you grow as a player. The whole squad has shown a lot of heart, has puta lot of work into this journey and I think they've grown even more as players but also as a team.
eurohandball.com: Do you think you'll be the favourites in Berlin?
Patrice Canayer: I don't think so, even if looking at the bare facts suggests otherwise. Berlin will be playing at home, and we're the perfect example of teams that are very hard to beat at home. I think this will be a true advantage for them.
Apart from this factor, I can't determine real favourites. The four teams are on the same level, with talented players and experience. The difference will be made by tiny details – injuries, tiredness, things that you can't necessarily control as a coach.
eurohandball.com: You'll face Constanta in the semi-final. What do you think of them?
Patrice Canayer: I think their presence is kind of logical. I remember losing in Romania a couple of seasons ago, and from what I've seen, they deserve to be in the Finals. They're dangerous on every position, they're very quick on fast breaks and they never give up.
Constanta are a team that has been playing together for a long time, they know themselves very well, and we'll have to play to our best in order to make it to the final.
eurohandball.com: Would you rather play Berlin or Szeged in the final?
Well, you've got to beat anyone who's in front of you, haven't you? So I have no real preference, I'm sure it will be an amazing handball party anyway.
TEXT: Kevin Domas / ts
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