Fleury bidding to flourish on European stage
Fleury Loiret Handball are making their first appearance in a European Cup competition in four seasons. With one of the most interesting squads among the clubs in the EHF European League Women group phase, the former French champions are hoping to enjoy a prolonged run in the competition.
- beat H 65 Höörs HK from Sweden in qualification round 3 to reach the group phase
- have previously competed at all levels of European competition
- squad contains players from four continents
- will face Siófok KC, Kuban and H.C. Dunarea Braila in group D
The burning question – what will Fleury’s return to Europe bring in the group phase?
A four-year absence from European competition has certainly stimulated Fleury Loiret’s appetite ahead of their group D campaign.
“After a four-year absence, we are very happy to have the scent of European competitions back. The objective is to go as far as possible in a tough competition,” said team manager Anthony Tahar.
From 2011/12 to 2016/17, the French club had competed in Europe in all bar the 2012/13 season, with their most notable achievement being a main round appearance in the EHF Champions League in 2015/16.
“Since the club made its return to the French elite in 2003, the European adventure has been a regular part of the experience offered to fans and sponsors,” added Tahar.
After finishing third in the curtailed French league 2019/20 season, Fleury entered the EHF European League in qualification round 3 and defeated Swedish club H 65 Höörs 57:50 on aggregate.
With summer additions including Angolan back Isabel Guialo and young Polish left back Paulina Uscinowicz, who has joined from Kobenhavn Handball, six different nationalities are represented in Fleury’s squad, which is captained by Alexandra Lacrabere.
Drawn in group D alongside Siofok, Kuban and Dunarea Braila, Fleury will know that away trips to Hungary, Russia and Romania will play a crucial part in determining whether they can advance to the quarter-finals, although they are not placing any limits on how they far they can go in this season’s competition.
“The objective is to go as far as possible in a tough competition,” said Anthony Tahar.
Captain fantastic - Alexandra Lacrabere
The best-known player in the Fleury squad, Lacrabere has won major championships with France’s national team, including the Women’s EHF EURO 2018, and twice reached the EHF Champions League final with Vardar.
Still capable of playing at the highest level – as shown by her player of the match performance against Spain at the Women’s EHF Euro 2020 – Lacrabere’s experience and desire to win can drive her Fleury teammates to greater heights in this competition.
Big signing – Isabel Guialo
Loves of international handball will remember Angola’s wins over Romania and Montenegro at the Rio 2016 Olympics – and Isabel Guialo was the top scorer for the African nation in both of those matches.
It is still early in Guialo’s time at the French club, but there were enough flashes of brilliance in Fleury’s 29:26 first leg win over H 65 Höörs to suggest that she might be a player to watch in the group phase.
Club stalwart – Laura Kamdop
Line player Laura Kamdop is one of four French-born Senegalese players currently at Fleury.
Kamdop spent one season at RK Krim Mercator in 2016/17 but has otherwise been at Fleury since 2009 and is an important part of the playing group on and off the court.
A night to remember
In the EHF Champions League 2015/16 season, reigning French champions Fleury Loiret played in the group matches for the first time.
Fleury earned seven points in the group matches and advanced to the main round. Although they lost their first two main round matches, the third match – away against Larvik – was surely their most memorable of the season.
A look back at the team sheets of those sides now might make you gasp. A Fleury side containing Alexandrina Cabral, who scored nine goals, Gsnonsiane Niombla and Estelle Nze Minko defeated Larvik 31:26 – and the Norwegian club still had Nora Mørk, Gro Hammerseng-Edin and Marit Malm Frafjord, to name just a few.
Newcomers and departures
Newcomers: Paulina Uscinowicz (Kobenhavn Handball), Isabel Guialo (C.D. Primeiro De Agosto, Angola), Doungou Camara (Stella St-Maur HB)
Departures: Bruna De Paula (Nantes Loire Atlantique HB), Patricia Jesus (unknown), Kristina Elez (unknown)
EHF Champions League:
Main round (1): 2015/16
Qualification tournament (1): 2013/14
Round 3 (1): 2005/06
Qualification round 2 (1): 2016/17
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Runners-up (1): 2014/15
Quarter-finals (1): 2013/14
Semi-finals (1): 2011/12
Last 16 (2): 2004/05, 2006/07
French league: 1 title (2014/15)
French cup: 1 title (2014)
French league cup: 2 titles (2015, 2016)