FEATURE: The top scorer of the Men's Challange Cup fights against HC Dukla Praha for a berth at the finals, the match can be watched live on ehfTV.
Antunes: "The team is very focused on this trophy"
Before the first leg of the Men's Challenge Cup Semi-finals, Fábio Antunes is optimistic about ABC/UMinho’s fate and believes that this year the Portuguese team will get the trophy.
The left wing spoke to eurohandball.com about the team’s journey and his performance in the competition. The match ABC/UMinho vs HC Dukla Praha will be shown live on ehfTV on Saturday 23 April, 21:30 hrs local time.
"The team is very focused on this trophy because of what happened last year and the excellent evidence we have given throughout the season. Our goal is to win," begins Fábio Antunes. Last season, he and his team lost the finals against Handball club Odorhei.
The left wing believes the competition is getting "more and more difficult", but says that ABC/UMinho have managed to overcome the various obstacles and are now working to get the ultimate prize.
The Portuguese club already qualified for three European finals (one EHF Champions League and two Challenge Cup Finals) and this year, they could not only reach their fourth final, but also get the club's first international title.
In their second Challenge Cup Final in 2005, Wacker Thun defeated ABC (55-53). This season though, ABC/UMinho defeated the Swiss team in the quarter-finals (64-57).
HC Dukla Phaha is ABC's opponent in this year’s semi-finals. The signs are good as the Portuguese club already defeated them in the Last 16 of the previous season (74-57).
"We've played against the team before and we know their fast game. It will be an interesting match, but very difficult for us," says Antunes. He highlights the "very strong collective" of his team and says that the main advantages are the "organization and fast transitions". However, he remembers that the team had several injuries which "caused a greater burden to some players."
Two Portuguese teams fighting for the trophy
In addition to the ABC, S.L. Benfica will also fight for a place in the final of the Men's Challenge Cup. FyllingenBergen is the opponent of the second Portuguese team.
For Antunes, "it would be very important if two Portuguese teams reached the final", as it would help promote the sport and attract a larger audience in his country.
Nonetheless, he believes that Portuguese teams do not have enough recognition in Europe yet, although they have good players and teams.
"Although we have not been able to enter the European or World Championship, we have good results in the youth teams and in other European competitions. We, FC Porto, Benfica or Sporting - who won this trophy - are some examples," declares the left wing.
Top scorer of the Challenge Cup
Antunes has played for ABC/UMinho ever since he discovered handball. In 2007, he started participating in European competitions and in 2012, he was first called to play in the national team.
This season, the 27-year-old leads the top scorers ranking of the Challenge Cup by 46 goals. "The distinction is important for my career and I am happy, but at the moment I only think about winning the trophy," he explains.
The left wing's future is nevertheless still uncertain. The contract with ABC ends this season and Fábio Antunes remains in mystery about his next steps. When asked about the possibility of playing in another league, the left wing says that he is a fan of the German Bundesliga and that "any player would like to play in Germany", but he "never had the opportunity to play outside Portugal".
TEXT: Filipa Sousa / es
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