St Raphaël aiming for European successArticle
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After making good progress over the last five seasons French League outfit St Raphaël are aiming to reach the Group Phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

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St Raphaël aiming for European success

Sixth in the French League in 2008 and 2009, fourth in 2010 and 2011, and third in 2012; Saint Raphaël Var Handball has ambitions to progress even further.St Raphael action - 350

But with less than half the budget of French League high-flyers Montpellier or Paris, making another step forward will be much harder than it sounds for Saint Raphaël. So the VELUX EHF Champions League Wild Card tournament is a unique opportunity for the club Saint Raphaël to get more financial support from its sponsors and keep growing.

The club has chosen to rely on the same players as before, and only replaced Ukrainian right back Mykola Stetsyura with former Montpellier and Leon player Adrien Di Panda.

One of the greatest assets at St Raphaël last year was its strong defence, with experienced and skilled field players such as David Juříček, Geoffroy Krantz, Nicolas Moretti and one of the best two goalkeepers in the country, Slaviša Đukanović and Yohann Ploquin. But the French Riviera club also have key players in attack, such as Tunisian playmaker Heykel Megannem and  the two-metre tall left wing Raphaël Caucheteux.

Their coach Christian Gaudin, a former goalkeeper and double world champion (1995 and 2001), decided to play a lot of their pre-season games in Germany so they were as ready as possible for the very first game of their season against Koper, which might also be their most important fixture.

“During these long trips away from home we could measure the difference between us and the level of some top clubs. It is a good thing, it taught us a lot,” he told the French National League website.

Saint Raphaël’s best achievement in cup competitions last year was second place in the French season-opening tournament, the Trophée des Champions in Monaco. This year, they hope to win the Wild Card Tournament and be part of the greatest club competition in the world: the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Photo: Handnews - Gaelle Louis-Kiss

TEXT: Nicolas Ercolano