EHF Cup countdown, part 16: RK Nexe (CRO)
'Thunder boys' out to make some noise
RK Nexe are celebrating their 55th anniversary with perhaps their greatest success - reaching the EHF Cup Group Phase.
The Nasice club have long lived the shadow of domestic rivals RK PPD Zagreb, but will now welcome the European spotlight after cruising to qualification with victories against BESA Famiglia and Potaissa Turda.
The Croatian runners-up and cup finalists, nicknamed 'Thunders of Krndija' - taking that name from the mountain near Nasice - will face Melsungen, Guif and Balatonfüredi in Group D.
"It is a big privilege for us to be a part of such a big competition," said coach Zdenko Kordi.
"Our main goal is to play quality handball in Europe and I'm sure we will do that, we're a good, quality team."
Kordi's team is made up almost entirely of Croatian talent with only one player, Turkish right back Can Çelebi, coming from outside the country.
It is Nexe's goal to hold on to second spot in Croatia while challenging for a place in the last eight of the EHF Cup.
But manager Josip Ergović anticipates a tight battle for second spot in Group D.
“We are very happy to be part of the group phase of the EHF Cup, our main goal is fulfilled," he said.
"The group is very interesting and we are pleased with it. There are some of the finest European clubs with Melsungen, who are favourites a little more than the others.
"We think that we have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals as well as the other clubs. We will try to win every game. I hope that we will play all our home games in front of stands full of our fans.”
Team captain Marko Mrđenović welcomes the challenge and hopes the club can improve as a result of the experience.
Mrđenović said: “We played very well in qualification and we also had some luck in draw to now be in the group stage of the EHF Cup for the first time.
"We will face high-quality teams in Group D, teams that are very famous in Europe. I am pleased with the draw because we will play in new places and with clubs from which we can learn.”
Three questions for coach Zdenko Kordi:
eurohandball.com: What are your expectations for the EHF Cup Group Phase, regarding your objectives and your group opponents?
Zdenko Kordi: "We have a nice group, all our opponents are very good, experienced and attractive. I am looking forward to six superb matches."
eurohandball.com: What does participation in the EHF Cup Group Phase mean to you and your club?
Zdenko Kordi: "It is our first time in the group stage of the EHF Cup, it is a new, higher level for our team and our club, and a big challenge. We want to be present in the top flight, so it is a big success for our club, the biggest achievement in our history. Also, this is a big success for Croatian handball because we are the first Croatian club to reach this stage."
eurohandball.com: Which teams are your favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Zdenko Kordi: "My favourites are Füchse Berlin, HSV Hamburg, Gorenje Velenje and St. Petersburg."
RK Nexe (CRO)
The road to the group phase:
Qualifying Round 2: Nexe vs. BESA Famiglia 40:25, 43:26
Qualifying Round 3: Nexe vs. Potaissa Turda 35:20, 23:26
Newcomers: Ante Gadža (RK Umag), Mirko Herceg (RK Zrinski), Martin Juzbašić (HC Energia Pandurii), Josip Crnić (RK Kozala), Can Çelebi (Özel Idare SK)
Left the club: Josip Pivac (without club), Šime Ivić (Celje Pivovarna Laško), Mijo Tomić (MKB Veszprem ZRT), Dino Janković (RK Osijek), Igor Vujić (Selestat), Marko Bureš (Đakovo)
Coach: Zdenko Kordi (since 2013)
EHF European Cup competitions records:
Other EC records:
Croatian league: Runners-up 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14
TEXT: Björn Pazen / jh
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