20210612 Nantes Nielsen Alexheimken
EHF European League

Third time lucky for HBC Nantes?

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EHF / Kevin Domas

After HBC Nantes made it to the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne last season, finishing fourth, they will be one of the favourites in the European League 2021/22. With their group phase ticket already awarded, can Nantes go all the way and finally lift the trophy?

Main facts

  • Nantes qualified for the European League after finishing third in the French league last season, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier
  • last season, they qualified for the EHF FINAL4, ranking fourth after losing to Barça in the semi-final. This was their second visit to Cologne, after reaching the final in 2018
  • Nantes also played the EHF Cup Finals twice, in 2013 and 2016, hosting the event both times. They played both finals and lost both, to Rhein-Neckar Löwen in 2013 and to Göppingen in 2016
  • Nantes welcomed five new players this summer and let seven go, including captain Rock Feliho

Most important question: Is this season finally the one for a European trophy for Nantes?

Nantes have been chasing a European crown every season since they first played the EHF Cup in 2011/12. They played four semi-finals and three finals but were never able to win one. Nevertheless, that is what you call continental experience, and the club have definitely made that into a strength over the years.

Individually, players like Valero Rivera, David Balaguer and Kiril Lazarov have the experience of winning major titles in handball, and the three will be very important if Nantes want to go far in the competition.

“HBC Nantes remains the same ambitious clubs as in the previous seasons. We feel like the European League is a great competition that we have the ability to win, even though there are many other high potential teams that will be playing it,” says coach Alberto Entrerrios.

Under the spotlight: Theo Monar

Despite having just turned 20, the French line player was one of the breakout stars of last season in the EHF Champions League. He scored a combined six goals in the EHF FINAL4, after a season that saw him progress steadily and very quickly, even earning him a chance at the national team at the EHF EURO qualifiers in April. And all of that without even a professional contract.

The club was quick to spot his potential and put pen to paper, and now is the time for the young player to confirm all the potential we saw from him in the first part of 2021.

How they rate themselves

Nantes never fool anyone and are open about playing every competition to win it. Despite not knowing their opponents in the group phase yet, and Valero Rivera is confident the team can shine in the next edition of the European League.

“There are some great teams from all over Europe taking part in the European League,” said the left wing. “To me, the German ones and the French ones are favourites, and that includes us. I remember losing it twice, this time I definitely hope I will win it.”

Did you know?

Emil Nielsen was the target of Barça for this season, as the EHF Champions League winners were looking for a goalkeeper to replace Kevin Møller, who was on his way to Flensburg. But due to contract, the Danish goalkeeper, who grabbed headlines in the Champions League last season, should only leave Nantes in 2022.

What the numbers say

With a Spanish coach, more often than not you have many Spanish players in the squad. This season, coach Entrerrios will have three, including new line player Ruben Marchan. That makes one fewer than last season, when Nantes had four Spanish players within their ranks.

Arrivals and departures

Arrivals: Mickael Robin (US Creteil), Pedro Portela (Tremblay en France), Linus Persson (US Ivry), Ruban Marchan (Ademar Leon), Alexander Shkurinskiy (Meshkov Brest)

Departures: Eduardo Gurbindo (Vardar), Rock Feliho (retired), Cyril Dumoulin, Mathieu Bataille (both Tremblay en France), Olivier Nyokas (Metalurg), Adria Figueras (Chartres), Sebastian Augustinussen (Stuttgart)

Past achievements

EHF Cup:

Runners-up (2): 2012/13, 2015/16
Quarter-final (1): 2013/14
Group phase (1): 2019/20
Qualification round 3 (2): 2011/12, 2014/15

EHF Champions League:

Final (1): 2017/18
Semi-final (1): 2020/21
Quarter-final (1): 2018/19
Last 16 (1): 2016/17

French Cup: one title (2017)

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