15.05.2017, 09:30 Petkovic: “All four teams are equally capable of taking the trophy”
INTERVIEW: Füchse Berlin coach talks about coming back to Göppingen, where he won the EHF Cup twice
Petkovic: “All four teams are equally capable of taking the trophy”
Twice in 2011 and 2012 Velimir Petkovic won the EHF Cup as the coach of Frisch Auf Göppingen, now the 60-year-old head coach will be part of the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals in Göppingen with his new club Füchse Berlin. In December 2016, the German with Bosnian roots took over the job from Erlingur Richardsson. After his predecessor steered the EHF Cup 2015 winners through tough qualification against Chambery and Velenje, Petkovic successfully led the team through the group phase and quarter-finals.
In the semi-final of the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals, Berlin will face Saint-Raphael again after a victory and a defeat against the French side in the group phase. In this interview, Petkovic talks about Berlin’s chances, his return to Göppingen and the favourites for the trophy.
If someone had told you half a year ago that you will be coaching Füchse Berlin at the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals - what would you have answered?
Velimir Petkovic: I don’t think that I would have said anything, I just would have wondered, but definitely it would have been a nice prospect. To be honest: it was a major surprise, when Füchse director Bob Hanning called me to take over this wonderful job in Berlin.
Have you been satisfied with the international performances since you took over?
Velimir Petkovic: I am very satisfied, as we had been drawn in the toughest of all groups - and we managed to proceed in a dominant way. GOG and Saint-Raphael were hard nuts to crack, but despite several long-term injuries in our squad, we had some great performances.
Is it something special for you to return to Göppingen, as you had steered Frisch Auf to two EHF Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2012?
Velimir Petkovic: It was a great feeling to return to Göppingen for the first time as coach with Eisenach, as the fans gave me a warm and heartily welcome. I have worked - mostly successfully - for nine and a half years at Frisch Auf, and the fans, who have great handball knowledge, didn’t forget this time. Therefore, I hope that the Göppingen fans will support us in our semi-final against Saint-Raphael.
You mentioned your first opponent at the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals: Do you prefer facing a French side rather than another duel with a German club?
Velimir Petkovic: It is great for the Bundesliga to be represented by three clubs in Göppingen. But personally I am happy to face an international team. Saint-Raphael in my opinion are and were the best non-German side in this EHF Cup season. We faced them twice and we know what to expect. They have the same chances to proceed to the finals as we do.
Is it fair to say there are no real favourites?
Velimir Petkovic: I believe that all four participants have the same chances to win the trophy. Göppingen are the hosts - and everybody, who knows handball, knows how big the advantage is when you play on home court. They have the great chance to crown this season with a trophy in only two matches. Magdeburg are currently playing extremely well in the Bundesliga - so the second semi-final will be as interesting as ours.
Is the preparation for a tournament like the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals different to the preparation for a Bundesliga match?
Velimir Petkovic: Indeed, as we have to prepare for two matches within 24 hours - two different opponents. As we know both German sides and also have faced Saint-Raphael already it makes things easier for us. But at first we had to focus on our crucial league match against Kiel, and the twelve players, which have been all over Europe with their national teams, need to recover.
Is it an advantage for Füchse Berlin that they are part of the EHF Cup Finals for the third time and once even managed to win the title?
Velimir Petkovic: No, all four teams are equally capable of taking the trophy.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc
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