20210413 Montpellier Porte2
EHF European League

Porte: Three goals is a lot in handball, but is also nothing

EHF / Kevin Domas

Despite scoring eight goals in the EHF European League Men quarter-final first leg against Füchse Berlin and Montpellier having a three-goal advantage ahead of the return game in Germany, Valentin Porte remains cautious. With all his experience, Porte knows that playing in Berlin is not an easy thing.

“We’re satisfied with the way we played in the first leg. Berlin were a very tough opponent — everything we expected them to be — and we managed to play well,” said the captain.

But at 30 years old, Valentin Porte has many European experiences behind him, and he knows that things can turn around quickly, one way or the other. “Three goals in handball is a lot but it is also nothing. One bad time in the game and it is erased. One thing is for sure: we expect a very tough fight in order to get the Finals ticket.”

20210413 Montpellier Porte

The Montpellier captain echoes the words of his coach Patrice Canayer right after the first leg. If Porte, currently in his sixth European campaign, has seen a lot, his coach has lived through even more. And Canayer remembers a time when a 10-goal lead was not enough for Montpellier’s opponent to proceed.

“I remember when we played Flensburg in the Champions League, a very long time ago. We won by 14 at home, and we lost by 13 away, with our last goal being scored after the buzzer. So I can tell you that we are happy about those three goals but we know that there’s still a lot of work to be done,” explained Canayer.

For a club so used to playing in the EHF Champions League, you might think that the European League does not mean much. But, on the contrary, the team are very focused as this trophy has become one of the main goals for the season.

“Look at the clubs in the quarter-finals — all eight of them could play in the Champions League or did not long ago. The European League is a major trophy, especially if you judge by the name of the clubs that won it [the former EHF Cup] lately: Kiel, Berlin, Rhein-Neckar — all of them are top clubs,” said Porte.

For him, experience will be the key as to whether Montpellier are able to qualify for the Finals — an event they have not played since 2014 when the second-tier competition was the EHF Cup. On that occasion, Montpellier lost the final against Szeged at a tournament that was held in the Max Schmelling Halle in Berlin — where Montpellier’s quarter-final fate will be decided on Tuesday.

Valentin Porte was not there, as he was playing for Toulouse at the time, but he must have been warned that this is no easy ground to take.

“We are only at half-time of the confrontation, and we expect the same kind of battle in the second game that we had in the first one. No matter which team goes through, they will have to play at 120% to do so.”

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