Duvnjak: Respect for Vardar!Article
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Croatian World Handball Player of the Year talks about the failure of the defending champions HSV Hamburg.

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Duvnjak: Respect for Vardar!

In his last season for HSV Hamburg before leaving to THW Kiel, Domagoj Duvnjak, will not be able to defend his 2013 title as VELUX EHF Champions League winner: On Sunday HSV missed the qualification for the quarter-finals by a 29:30 defeat against Vardar Skopje.

In this interview with ehfCL.com, the current World Handball Player of the Year, explains the reasons for the failure and what it means for him not being on the way to Cologne again. Before, Hamburg had already missed the qualification for the German cup final tournament on home ground – and in Bundesliga they are quite far below THW Kiel again.

ehfCL.com: What were the reasons, why Hamburg lost against Vardar Skopje?

Domagoj Duvnjak: We knew that we will have two tough matches ahead, but after the 28:28 in Skopje we thought that we have quite a good base for progressing to the quarter-finals.

Unfortunately this base was not good enough! We gave all we could, we fought until the final buzzer, but Vardar are in the quarter-finals now, not Hamburg.

I have to say: Respect, Vardar – you deserved it! Life goes on for all of us, but unfortunately without being part of the Champions League.

ehfCL.com: Is it even harder  and worse when missing the quarter-finals as the first ever defending champions since the change of the playing system?

Domagoj Duvnjak: I don’t care in this case, if we were the defending champions or not. It is a pity that we miss this great event.

One of our main goals was to progress to Cologne, now it is over. Sorry for all our fans, who supported us on our way. We were the favourites against Vardar, but did not win.

ehfCL.com: When your team changed the roller coaster direction from 21:26 to 28:29, didn’t you believe that Hamburg will go through?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Yes, we had hoped for it at that moment. We did all we could, but it was not enough. I was confident, my team mates were confident, but we didn’t make it.

ehfCL.com: After the elimination of the defending champions – which teams are your personal favourites to follow on Hamburg as VELUX EHF Champions League winners now?

Domagoj Duvnjak: A tough question! There are so many good teams still in the competition, but I strongly believe that FC Barcelona are the favourites by now. They have an incredible squad, and newcomers like Kiril Lazarov or Nikola Karabatic fit perfectly. But: We all know what can happen in Cologne, proved by us last year: Everything can happen within 24 hours.

ehfCL.com: In January you were awarded World Handball Player of the Year. How did your life change since then?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Nothing changed! I still play handball and I still want to improve in every match and every training session. It was a huge honour for me to be awarded the best player – but I was awarded for 2013, in 2014 so many things look different.

But still I have to say thank you for my teams – Croatia and Hamburg – and my coaches, mainly HSV coach Martin Schwalb, as they always supported me. But life is still the same, except that I have a new trophy in my living room.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br