Hoping for the big party on home courtArticle
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EHF Cup countdown, part 12: HBC Nantes (FRA)
»2015-16 Men's News

Hoping for the big party on home court

In December 2015, the EHF announced that HBC Nantes will host the EHF Cup Finals on 14/15 May, and with this comes extra motivation but also some pressure.

The French side had been bidding for the event like Frisch Auf Göppingen (Germany) and both were drawn in the same tough Group B as well as Holstebro and OCI Lions.

Nantes will host the EHF Cup Finals for the second time after the premiere of this format in 2013, when the hosts made it to the final, but were defeated by Rhein-Neckar Löwen. Now, Nantes will hope to be the first ever French team to win this competition.

After making it to the quarter-finals in the 2013/14 season, when they lost the all-French duel against Montpellier, Nantes missed out on the group phase last season. In qualification they faced Füchse Berlin, and were narrowly eliminated by the eventual champions.

In contrast to 2013, the EHF Cup Finals will be played in the new HBC arena “La Trocardière” with a capacity of 4200 seats.

To make it to the final tournament, by skipping the quarter-finals, Nantes need to win their group or have to be among the three best second ranked teams. On the way, HBC definitely can count on their great fans as for the third time they were voted “best fans in France”.

But prior to and during this season, Nantes lost some key players to Champions League participants such as Spaniard Jorge Maqueda, who transferred to Vardar Skopje or line player Igor Anic, who now plays for THW Kiel.

But still they have top class in their squad like the 2013 Spanish World Champions Alberto Entrerrios or Valero Rivera Folch (who will leave for Barcelona after this season and will be replaced by German Dominik Klein).

In the third qualification round, Nantes had more problems than expected to leave Croatian side Nexe behind (26:26, 22:18), but finally the team of coach Thierry Anti came good, and now has the great chance to go all the way.

Three questions to coach Thierry Anti:

What are your expectations for the group phase of the EHF Cup - regarding your objectives and your group opponents?
Thierry Anti: This group is going to be difficult for sure. We have to finish first or second, and the best would be to finish the group phase as the winner, of course. Göppingen and Holstebro are serious teams with high potential. Lions are a good challenger, they are Champions of the Netherlands and they have some recent experience in Champions League. It is going to be a real challenge to beat these teams.

What does the participation in the group phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Thierry Anti: I am very proud of our fifth participation in this competition. In French championship, it is very difficult to obtain a qualification to EHF Cup, because the level is very high. For me, representing the club in Europe means everything. The best event of my career would be to win a European trophy.

Which teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Thierry Anti: A lot of teams can play at this top European level. Many of them should have played Champions League this season like Granollers, Magdeburg, Göppinggen, Aalborg, Silkeborg, Saint-Raphael, Chambery or HBC Nantes. All of these teams are potentials winners. Let’s see what will happen, but it is fascinating!

HBC Nantes (FRA)

Newcomers: David Balaguer (Encantada), Rodrigo Salinas (Bucarest), Vitaliy Komogorov (Volgograd),
Theo Derot (Istres), Florian Delecroix, Nicolas Tournat (both from Nantes youth team)

Left the club: Jorge Maqueda (Vardar Skopje), Aymen Toumi (Montpellier), Wilson Davyes (Cesson), Igor Anic (THW Kiel), Mathieu de la Breteche (end of career)

Coach: Thierry Anti (since 2009)
Team captain: Rock Feliho

Qualification for the EHF Cup Group Phase:  Round 3, 26:26 & 22:18 against RK Nexe

Past achievements

EHF Cup records:
Finallist: 2012/13
Quarter-final: 2013/14
Round 3: 2011/12

French cup winners: finallist 2015
French league cup winners: 2015 (finallist 2013)

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc