EHF Cup countdown, part 14: Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA)
Hoping for Nantes after luck in the draw
They are back and they are aiming for Nantes: After a three-year absence from EHF European cup competitions, Saint-Raphael Var Handball have made it back to where their club has had the most success - two quarter-final participations in the old format of the competition.
In the 2012/13 the French side were close to proceeding to the group phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League, but lost the final of the wild card qualification tournament on home ground after an extra time 31:32 loss against HSV Hamburg, the eventual VELUX EHF Champions League champions.
In the same season, the team of coach Joel da Silva failed to qualify for their first ever group phase of the EHF Cup after a clear defeat against eventual semi-finalists Holstebro.
This season, Saint-Raphael had more luck in the draw. In qualification round 3, they faced Icelandic champions Haukar and did not have any problems to beat them twice. Now they will duel with Minsk, Bjerringbro and Winterthur in the quite balanced Group C.
Besides a top position in the French league, which allows them to qualify for international competitions again, the major goal of this season is to go all the way to EHF Cup Finals in Nantes.
St. Raphael has a former EHF Cup winner, Geoffroy Krantz (Gummersbach), and two former EHF Cup Finals participants, the Romanians Alexandru Simicu and Mihai Popescu (2014 with Constanta), in their squad.
Their Icelandic team captain Arnor Atlason even has the experience of participating at the 2012 VELUX EHF FINAL4 with his former team AG Kobenhavn.
Three questions to coach Joel Da Silva:
What are your expectations for the EHF Cup Group Phase regarding your objectives and your group opponents?
What does the participation in the EHF Cup Group Phase mean to you and your club?
What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Newcomers: Alexandru Simicu, Mihai Popescu, Arthur Vigneron, Ongjen Djeric
Coach: Joel Da Silva
TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc
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