EHF Champions League

France's third team relishing big opportunity

Björn Pazen / bc

France's third team relishing big opportunity

After hosting the EHF Cup Finals twice (in 2013 and 2016) and making it to the finals at both events, HBC Nantes have their maiden voyage in the VELUX EHF Champions League ahead; the club being awarded a wild card for the group phase.

Though Spanish 2013 World Champions Alberto Entrerrios (now assistant coach) and Valero Rivera (FC Barcelona) and two goalkeepers Mattias Schulz and Gorazd Skof have left, coach Thierry Anti’s squad looks well-prepared for their first challenge in the Champions League.

Nantes have signed two new World Champions, Eduardo Gurbindo (Spain 2013) and Dominik Klein (Germany 2007) from two of the best clubs in the world, Barcelona and Kiel. The new goalkeepers are Cyril Dumoulin (Toulouse) and Arnaud Siffert (Montpellier).

Entrerrios takes over from Gregory Cojean, who now is in charge of the club's youth team. Under his guidance four U18 and U20 World Champions came to fruition. As Cojean needs more time for the development of talent, he resigned as assistant of Anti to connect the club's youth team and the professional team.

Supported by their “Big H superhero” mascot, Nantes know how to organise great events in a huge Trocardière arena and this was praised by EHF President Jean Brihault: “This is the kind of venue we are aiming for in the future. Nice surroundings, functional and with ease of use.”

The arena, staff and the team are ready for the new adventure, as club president Gaël Pelletier points out: “We have been playing in European Cup competitions since 2011 and our objective was to qualify for the VELUX EHF Champions League - this is the first step. It’s an important competition; it’s a reward for the club’s hard work; the staff, the players, and the partners will all enjoy us playing in the Champion’s League. We have entered into a new era.”

The first goal is to reach the Last 16: “It would be a good start, if we could manage it,” says Pelletier, adding: “We know that some opponents have the advantage of knowing the VELUX EHF Champions League better than we do, but we will try to learn fast about this competition in order to be the best we possibly can be.”

Team captain Rock Feliho is confident of proceeding to the knockout stage, as “this would be a big success for our first participation in this competition,” but also is aware of the opponents: “Our group is complicated because it’s homogeneous. HBC Nantes can take its chance, like the other teams. We have to do the best we can to get out of this round. We have ambition and we will give it our all to win as many games as possible!”

Besides their international goals, Nantes also hope to finish among the top three teams in the French league and to win at least one cup in France.

HBC Nantes (FRA)

Qualification for the 2016/17 VELUX EHF Champions League season: third ranked in France

Newcomers: Senjamin Buric (Gorenje Velenje), Eduardo Gurbindo (FC Barcelona), Dominik Klein (THW Kiel), Jerko Matulic (Chambery), Olivier Nyokas (Göppingen), Arnaud Siffert (Montpellier Handball), Romain Lagarde (Nantes youth) Cyril Dumoulin (Toulouse)

Left the club: Uros Bundalo (HC Erlangen), Matias Schulz (Pfadi Winterthur), Alberto Entrerrios (ended playing career), Valero Rivera (FC Barcelona), Jordan Camarero (Pays d'Aix Universite Club), Sime Ivic (Orlen Wisla Plock), Gorazd Skof (Paris Saint-Germain), Vitaly Komogorov (HC Odorhei), Rodrigo Salinas (Chartres Metropole Handball 28)

Coach: Thierry Anti (since 2009, assistant: Alberto Entrerrios since 2016)
Team captain: Rock Feliho

Opponents in the group phase: Zaporozhye, Holstebro, Besiktas, Bucuresti and the winner of qualification tournament 2 in Group D
VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2016/17 season): 1

Other EC records:

EHF Cup records:
Finallist: 2012/13, 2015/16
Quarter-final: 2013/14
Round 3: 2011/12

French champions: -
French cup winners: 2014

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