Plenty to learn for DunkerqueArticle
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Plenty to learn for Dunkerque

A team known for being a regular fixture in the EHF Cup, Dunkerque, made a big step at the end of last season by qualifying for the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase for the first time.

Two seasons ago, after losing in the wild card tournament against Rhein-Neckar Löwen, the boys from the north of France went all the way to the EHF Cup final, where they lost to another German team, Frisch auf Göppingen.

“We've learnt from this,” says goalkeeper Vincent Gérard.

"At the time, we played the whole season with only seven players. We have more good players now,” claims the 26-year-old.

Learning experience

Despite finding themselves in one of the toughest groups in the competition, with the likes of Kiel, Kielce and Kolding, Dunkerque want to make the most of their experience.

Patrick Cazal, who's been in charge of the team for two seasons, makes this point clear.

"We're going to be very humble. We know it's going to be hard from us, especially starting in Kielce.

“However, if we have the opportunity to qualify for the second phase, we won't waste it. We want to aim for fourth place,” said Cazal.

“We're facing Kiel, who have won the competition many times, and Kielce, who were in Cologne last season.

“Kolding have got many good players too and whoever might qualify in the wild card matches, either Montpellier or Plock, will be tough to beat,” admits the coach.

Settled squad

But Dunkerque has, for now, a small advantage on the other teams in the group.

While some of them have to incorporate many new players in during pre-season, Dunkerque only have one major change in their squad.

Sébastien Bosquet, left for Tremblay, while Romain Guillard went the other way.

"Of course it's easier for us, because we only have Romain to take in. He's a good defender and can play every position in the back court.

"But we expect a lot from the two Norwegians players that arrived last summer, Christoffer Rambo and Espen Lie Hansen. They've had a tough year to adapt, but we're waiting for them to explode this season,” explained Cazal.

Intimate venue

Dunkerque have also been allowed to play in the Stade de Flandres, which will be the smallest venue in this season’s competition, which has delighted the coach.

“It's nice because it allows us to give something back to the fans that have supported us for so long.

It would have been hard to play elsewhere and maybe this will make it a little bit harder for our opponents,” said Cazal.

"If we want to qualify, we'll have to take as many points on home court as we can. Playing in Dunkerque could be a huge advantage for us,” concluded Vincent Gérard.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor