Tkaczyk hopes for third time luckyArticle
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INTERVIEW: For the third time in the VELUX EHF FINAL4, for the third time playing the semi-final against FC Barcelona. But this time Grzegorz Tkaczyk won't let FC Barcelona cross their path to the final.

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Men's News

Tkaczyk hopes for third time lucky

Kielce captain Grzegorz Tkaczyk will face Barcelona for the third time in a FINAL4 tournament – but he hopes the outcome this time will be different from that of previous years. The first time he played the VELUX EHF FINAL4, in 2011 with Rhein-Neckar Löwen, Grzegorz Tkaczyk’s path to victory was crossed by FC Barcelona. The team then missed their chance for a bronze medal when they lost against Hamburg in the 3/4 match. Two years later, it was again Barcelona that defeated Tkaczyk in the semi-final, though he managed to leave Cologne with the bronze won with his current club, KS Vive Tauron Kielce. Now, Tkaczyk will face his executor in the semi-final again. Will it be a case of third time lucky? You have played Barcelona in the semi-finals of the FINAL4 twice, and now you have to meet them again.

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: Exactly – I always face Barcelona when I go to Cologne! This time I would like to say ‘third time lucky’ and hope my team and I will finally be able to beat them. Is there any common denominator for the previous two failures?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: It’s hard to say. Those semi-finals were completely different. With Rhein-Neckar we were close to eliminating Barcelona, but our goalkeeper Slawek Szmal got injured in the 40th minute and had to leave the court. Until then he was playing an amazing game and the score was floating around a draw. Only after that did Barcelona manage to work out a two-goal advantage, and they kept it. We were so close but in the end we lost the third place match. Then two years ago, with Kielce, we defeated THW Kiel for the bronze medal – so these were two different stories. Is this year’s journey to Cologne as emotional as when the team first qualified in 2013?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: It is a big success for our club to find ourselves again as one of the four best teams in such a prestigious tournament. We are all happy and the emotions are similar. The plan however, is much bigger. We have tasted the FINAL 4 and our appetites have grown. We still have something to prove. Does the fact that you won every group match mean you had a relatively easy path to Cologne?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: The fact that one team wins all matches in the group doesn’t mean the group is easy. In the quarter-final THW Kiel met a team that took second place in our group: Pick Szeged, and lost away by two goals. We however, won against them. In our group we also had the French champions [Dunkerque], who caused trouble for teams like Montpellier and PSG in the domestic league. PSG is considered to be one of the best teams in the world but didn’t get a spot as one of the four best teams. Only three names in Kielce have changed since 2013. Has the team changed somehow anyway?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: Definitely we added some years! We are two years older, and wiser as well. The line-up is indeed almost the same. In my opinion, the fact that this team is being built so patiently is our big advantage. This is the attribute lacking in a lot of European clubs. But the team’s on-court game seems to have evolved.

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: Since Talant Dujshebaev came to Kielce as our coach many things have changed in the team. We use different tactics in attack and defence. Frequent changes during the games and player versatility count in our favour, because in case of injuries different players are able to fill the gaps. These aspects are part of our coach’s plan for the whole season. Could we call Nikola Karabatic the biggest new asset since you last played Barcelona?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: Nikola Karabatic is definitely a huge asset for Barcelona. No matter what team he is on, their game is always based around him – but he is not their only force. They now have the goal-shooting Sigurdsson on the wing. They don’t have Arpad Sterbik in the goal anymore, but they still have Danijel Saric and a young Spaniard Spaniard (Gonzalo Perez de Vargas) from the national team. This time you’ve got Talant Dujshebaev as your coach, who knows the Spanish league well – is he the ace up your sleeve?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: We will see. Knowing our coach, I’m sure he will prepare something special for our Catalan opponents. He always equips us well and there are only a few people that know Barcelona as well as he does. How does he prepare you for this kind of tournament?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: The schedule of the finals has left us with only a week for preparation before the FINAL4. Luckily the domestic playoff system is structured with two matches in a row, which allows us to prepare for the challenge we will face in Cologne. Which team would you prefer not to face in the final?

Grzegorz Tkaczyk: To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. It doesn’t matter as all the teams are classy. My dream is to play and win a great final. This may be one of my last chances to visit Cologne to fight for this wonderful trophy. –