No pressure on Fleury before their trip to ItalyArticle
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NEWS REPORT: French runners-up pay respect to their opponents in the Women's EHF Champions League Qualification Group 4, but still they dream about their premiere appearance in the European top flight.

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No pressure on Fleury before their trip to Italy

If you ask head coaches from the first league in France about the potential winners of the championship this year, they always give you two names: Metz and Fleury.

Last year, Fleury, located 130 kilometers away from Paris, lost the championship's final against Metz (27:22/21:27). Only one goal which made the difference between the team that would take part in the Champions League group phase and the one which would have to take part in a qualification tournament. Even the qualification was not assured until the EHF Executive Committee granted Fleury with a Wild Card place.

In two years, Fleury built a team able to compete against the best. "I had the chance to sign all the players I wished," head coach Frédéric Bougeant said for With arrivals like Marta Mangué, Ionela Stanca last year or Audrey Bruneau and Katty Piéjos this summer, Fleury strengthened its team on every position.

"Today, we have around 16 or 17 players able to play in the team, told Bougeant. We even have Maakan Tounkara who can help sometimes on the right wing." Tounkara quit handball one year ago when she left Le Havre while she was part of the French national team.

In the warm-up Fleury won the Kappa Panthera Cup after two convincing wins - 37:24 against Union Mios Biganos-Bègles and 31:22 against Issy-Paris.

While winning the championship remains the main target of this new season, Fleury still keeps in mind that the qualification tournament in Italy could be the ticket for its first Champions League campaign in its history.

"This year, our target is to win all our games," another stalwart Manon Houette says. "The challenge will be really hard in Salerno but we have our card to play."

"We will go to Italy without any kind of pressure because we will play against two very good teams anyway, explains Bougeant. I would say that first, we will have to win against Rostov, which will be hard.

"And if we win, we will have to undertake some risks in the final, whatever the other team will be."

In the other semi-final of the Group 4 in Eboli, Italy the host team of Salerno will face the new emerging Macedonian powerhouse Vardar Skopje.

In the European club competitions, the best result for Fleury was during the 2011/12 season, when they reached the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup. After winning the first leg against Muratpasa at home, they lost the plot during the second leg in Turkey and got eliminated.

Photo: Clement Domas

TEXT: Clement Domas / br