Drux: “A one-goal deficit is nothing”
Only two of the 16 teams still in contention for the EHF European League have been part of the EHF FINAL4 and both are in the middle of a Last 16 duel: Füchse Berlin and HBC Nantes. French side Nantes won the first leg 25:24 on home ground, on Tuesday (18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV), almost everything starts on zero at Berlin.
“A one-goal deficit is nothing in handball,” says Paul Drux, who since joining the club at 16 has been part of every major success the club from the German capital has enjoyed.
In 2015 and 2018, Drux and Füchse won the EHF Cup, twice they became IHF Super Globe winners, in 2012, right in their first EHF Champions League season, they made it to Cologne.
And thanks to their long tradition in EHF club competitions, they know how to turn deficits around. In the Champions League quarter-finals in 2012, they lost the first match 34:23 in Leon but made it to Cologne thanks to a 29:18 win in the second leg. In 2018, they lost the first leg of the EHF Cup quarter-finals 28:20 against RK Nexe but made it to the EHF Finals (and later on the winners’ podium) thanks to a 25:16 victory at home.
“Against a strong and experienced team such as HBC Nantes, it would be impossible to turn an eight or eleven goal deficit around, so we are happy that it is only one goal,” says Drux. He was satisfied with the way his team played the first 40 minutes at Nantes and how they came back after a three-goal deficit.
“Nothing is decided yet, this result is a good base for us, especially, as we play the crucial match at home.”
Home crowd boost
Since last weekend, there are no more Covid capacity restrictions in Berlin, therefore Drux hopes for a fully packed arena.
“You currently see that all fans are so happy that they can come back to the arenas. They really enjoy being part of sports events. I really hope that the atmosphere in a fully packed arena will boost us to make it to the quarter-finals.”
If Füchse proceed, they would face the winners of the duel between rivals and defending champions SC Magdeburg and Sporting CP.
“We definitely do not think about the next round, only the match on Tuesday counts,” says Drux, who lost last season’s final in Mannheim with the Foxes against Magdeburg.
After playing many seasons in the second tier EHF men’s competition, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist has recognised that “the quality of this competition is rising year by year. All German clubs are seriously tested by international rivals and the number of close and attractive matches for us is rising too.
“Definitely, we can develop a lot from those encounters, but it gets harder and harder to win the points.”
Füchse lost two matches in the group phase against Plock and at Toulouse, the 25:24 loss at Nantes was their third defeat in this European League season.
Berlin are currently second ranked in German Bundesliga, and can hope for their first Champions League appearance since the 2013/14 season.
“We are not calculating which competition we should focus on more, it is all about the next match. And I am sure, if we proceed to the quarter-finals, this will give us another boost for the Bundesliga,” Drux says.
The back court player is sure that the re-match against Nantes will be a close one until the end.
“Both teams can count on experienced players, who had been in similar situations before. We all know what to do under pressure - and in this case, we also know that little things will decide.”
One new arrival for Berlin, who stands out in terms of experience, is line player Igor Vori. The Croat, a world and Olympic champion, signed a short-term contract for Füchse two weeks ago, after Dane Johan Koch was ruled out by an injury until the end of the season.
“Igor is such a brilliant guy, on and off the court. He has won all the trophies, he has played so many crucial matches and this is why he can bring us forward. He fits perfectly in our team,” says Drux, who admits that his standout moment in international club competitions was “definitely winning the EHF Cup 2018 in Magdeburg, this tournament was simply outstanding.”