Unstoppable Nantes write history
In only their fifth season in European competitions, Nantes Atlantique Handball were unstoppable in the EHF Finals Women. In Sunday’s final, they secured their second win in as many days, 36:31 against Siófok KC, to lift the inaugural EHF European League Women trophy.
After a 17-game unbeaten run in the competition, Siófok KC lost the chance to become only the second team ever to defend the trophy of the second-tier European competition, dropping their first game since 2019 in the final.
Siófok KC (HUN) vs Nantes Atlantique Handball (FRA) 31:36 (13:17)
- buoyed by their semi-final win against Baia Mare, 36:34, Nantes picked up where they left off, profiting once again from goals from left back Bruna de Paula and right wing Nathalie Hagman to jump to an early 11:6 lead after 17 minutes
- converting only 59 per cent of their attacks in the first half and despite two timeouts called by coach Zdravko Zovko, Siófok could not find their groove and were down 17:13 at the break
- firing from all cylinders in attack, Nantes jumped to what proved to be an unassailable lead, 26:19, after 39 minutes. Siófok’s experience could not help them with another comeback, as it did in the semi-final against Herning-Ikast Håndbold
- Siófok risked it all in the dying minutes, but could only cut the gap to three goals, succumbing to a 36:31 defeat — the first after a 17-game unbeaten run in European competitions, with the last loss also coming against Nantes, in qualification phase 3 of the EHF Cup 2019/20
- Nathalie Hagman scored seven goals against Siófok, finishing the tournament with 18 goals and becoming top scorer of the EHF Finals Women
- Nantes’ back Bruna de Paula, who will join Metz Handball this summer, was named the MVP of the EHF Finals Women after scoring 14 goals this weekend
- Nantes became the first French team to win the second-tier European competition, after Dijon lost the Women’s EHF Cup final in 1992/93, while Metz conceded the final against Danish side Team Tvis Holstebro eight seasons ago
Outstanding Nantes make history for French handball
They might have started the EHF European League a little under the radar, but what a sensational trip it has been for Nantes Atlantique Handball.
Their season started last November, when Nantes faced Romanian side SCM Gloria Buzau and eked out a 44:43 aggregate win in qualification round 3, after almost dropping the group phase berth despite winning the first leg, 23:16.
With a strong defence, based on the French discipline, but with a high-octane attack, led by Brazilian back Bruna de Paula, who scored 60 goals this season, Nantes dazzled and impressed throughout 2020/21, conceding only two losses.
Yet they found their best groove exactly when it mattered, in the EHF Finals Women, where they disposed of hosts CS Minaur Baia Mare and the last EHF Cup champions, Siófok KC. Nantes scored 72 goals in two games and put on an outstanding display of brains and sheer will — the perfect recipe for the win.
When we arrived here, I told the girls that this is a big event, but we only have to play handball. These are just two handball games and handball is what you do best. Let’s play — we will cry after. And this is what they did. They were amazing. They respected the plan. There were a lot of historic things for us. It is unbelievable. I am trying to explain to my president that this was not a normal season, because I do not want him to expect such seasons year after year!