EHF Champions League

Duvnjak: “My big dream is to win the EHF Champions League with Kiel”

Björn Pazen / cor

Duvnjak: “My big dream is to win the EHF Champions League with Kiel”

Nine days ago, he cried bitter tears, despite being awarded MVP of the EHF EURO 2020 and best player of the EHF EURO final against Spain.

But right before, the dream of his first gold medal with the Croatian national team at a major tournament was shattered with a 22:20 defeat in Stockholm.

On Wednesday, the Croatian and THW Kiel team captain Domagoj Duvnjak will resume his VELUX EHF Champions League campaign as Kiel host defending champions HC Vardar.

In the Interview of the Week, three-time EHF EURO runner-up (2008, 2010, 2020) and EHF Champions League winner in 2013 with Hamburg - talks about switching back to club duty and his major dream, which can yet come true this season. With some days to reflect on it, did you lose gold or win silver at the EHF EURO?

Domagoj Duvnjak: We won the silver, we did not lose gold. Before the start of the tournament, we were not the big favourites and we were not supposed to be in the final, but we made our way, only focussing from match to match.

Of course, this defeat still hurts so much, as Croatia never won the gold medal at the European championship and we were so close. But we also have to say that Spain played an extraordinary final and an extraordinary tournament. Is it even harder, as the team wanted to gift your outgoing coach Lino Cervar with this last missing trophy in his career?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Of course. Lino did so much for Croatian handball, for the nation, so we wanted to win gold for him. Now we hope to make it to the Olympic Games to grant him with a successful farewell there, but the way to the Olympic Games is anything but easy, facing France, Portugal and Tunisia in qualification. How was the reception and the party at home in Zagreb?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Immediately after the final, we flew to Zagreb, where we had a great reception on the main square on Monday. So many people came to cheer for us, we saw that we caused a real euphoria at home. It was our first final after ten years, and I am sure we made the people really happy. But the break from handball was quite short.

Domagoj Duvnjak:  Oh yes. I flew from Zagreb to Hamburg on Wednesday and straight from the airport I went to a test match against HSV. But I feel good, I am not tired anymore, I am happy that I returned to Kiel without any injury and I hope that does not change for the rest of the season. Only six days after the EHF EURO final, Kiel had a top of the table clash in the Bundesliga against Hannover. How did it feel to be back on court again?

Domagoj Duvnjak: There were 10,000 fans in a sold-out arena in Hannover and approximately 500 from Kiel. It was a great match in a brilliant atmosphere and the most important fact was that we won and remain on top of the table. Everything worked well. How did your teammates welcome back the MVP and silver medallist Domagoj Duvnjak?

Domagoj Duvnjak: It is quite normal that Kiel players return home with medals from major tournaments, last year the Landin brothers came back as world champions, for example. Of course, they congratulated me and it was even a bit special for me as it was the first time since four years and our bronze medal in Poland that I was the one to come home with a medal. On Wednesday, the VELUX EHF Champions League re-starts for THW and you. Kiel are on top of group B, but still have some tough tasks ahead in the group phase, starting with the duel against the defending champions. What is possible for THW in the group phase?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Indeed, the remaining programme is tough. First against Vardar, who are still a very strong team, then the away match in Brest. And in the last two matches against Veszprém and at Kielce, it will be decided, whether we win our group or not.

We have a very good base at the moment, but everything is still open. Bearing in mind the tough weeks in the Bundesliga, EHF Champions League and with the national team ahead, two free weekends and skipping the last 16 as a group winner would be perfect to recover. We could become the first German group winners since the format was changed, so there is a lot to play for. Since Kiel’s last participation in 2016, no German team made it to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in Cologne. Has the time come to change this?

Domagoj Duvnjak: It is still my biggest dream to win the EHF Champions League with THW Kiel. My trophy with Hamburg is already seven years ago, so I want to return to the winners’ podium. But of course, it is anything but easy to fulfil this dream. First, you have to make it to Cologne, then you need two perfect days there. But this year, we have a good team and anything is possible. So I truly hope to end this series and make it to Cologne this year.

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