The girls in skirts are back among the eliteArticle
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COUNTDOWN: Women’s EHF Champions League countdown, part 11: Metz Handball (FRA)

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The girls in skirts are back among the elite

16-time French champions Metz Handball have experienced the Women’s EHF Champions League just once, in the 2011/12 season,  and managed to make it to the Main Round.

A repeat performance is the clear objective of coach Sandor Rac this season and their summer signings highlight that ambition.

The tall Ukrainian shooter Anastasija Pidpalova and Czech international Barbora Ranikova have joined the club, while French international Katty Piejos was lost to league runners-up Fleury, who failed in their qualification attempt.

Their chances of making it to the next round appear quite good, with Metz getting a favourable draw, facing last season’s semi-finalist Krim as well as Sävehof and Leipzig.

In the previous season Metz were highly close to win their first ever international title after winning the French double (league and cup), but despite an huge first leg lead in the EHF Cup finals against Danish side Holstebro, they finally let the trophy slip from their grasp.

Preparations have not been easy for the very international looking squad (nine nations represented), with Russian Ekaterina Andryushina and Spaniard Lara Gonzalez Ortega missing through injury.

Team captain Nina Kanto expects an evenly balanced group.

“The first objective is reaching the Main Round of the Champions League. The teams in our group are at the same level, so we are aiming to win as many games as possible,” says Kanto.

Three questions to coach Sandor Rac:

What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the Women’s EHF Champions League - concerning your objectives and your group opponents?

Sandor Rac: The group is well balanced; all teams can beat their opponents. Maybe Ljubljana are the best team in this group.

What does the participation in the Women’s EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Sandor Rac: The Women’s EHF Champions League is the best competition of handball in Europe with the best teams. We are very happy to be a part of it.

What teams are your personal favourites to win the Women’s EHF Champions League season – and why?

Sandor Rac: Györ are my personal favourites to win. They won the competition last year and they done some good recruiting over the summer.

Metz Handball (FRA)

Coach: Sandor Rac, since 2012

Newcomers (including former club): Chloé Bulleux (Nîmes), Barbora Ranikova (Zora Olomouc), Laura Flippes (Achenheim), Anastasia Pidpalova

Left the club (including new club): Katty Piejos (Fleury Loiret Handball)

Qualification for the 2013/2014 EHF Women’s Champions League season: French champions

EHF Women’s Champions League records:
Participations (including 2013/2014 season): 16
Main Round: 2001/12
Last 16: 1994/95, 1995/96
Last 32: 1993/94
Group Matches/Champions League: 1996/97, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2008/09, 2009/10,
Qualification: 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08

Other EC records:

Finalist 2012/13
Quarter-final 2000/01, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2007/08

Cup Winners’ Cup
Semi-finalist 1998/99, 2003/04, 2009/10, 2010/11

French champion: 1989, 1990, 1993-1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004-2009, 2011, 2013
French Cup winner: 1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2010, 2013

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor