"We can lose in Nantes, but not in Brest"Article
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FEATURE: Meshkov goalkeeper Ivan Pesic believes his team can open the door to the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals by getting a good result at home against Nantes on Saturday

»EHF CL Channel »2017-18 Men's News

"We can lose in Nantes, but not in Brest"

HC Meshkov Brest goalkeeper Ivan Pesic is full of confidence ahead of the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16.

Brest will face HBC Nantes, and the first leg will be played in Belarus on Saturday before the teams meet again in France on 1 April.

“I think that the chances are fifty-fifty,” Pesic tells ehfCL.com. “Nantes did very well in the group phase where they claimed 20 points, while we earned just 10. However, that doesn’t matter now.”

The Croatian goalkeeper is aware that the home game will be especially important.

“We can lose in Nantes, but not in Brest,” he says. “On home court, we must win with the largest possible gap, and then we will have a good chance to get through.”

“Nantes have two great players in each position”

Nantes finished third in Group A, one point behind group winners Vardar and level on points with Barcelona. So there was a chance for Brest to face Barcelona in the Last 16, yet Pesic is happy to avoid the Spanish powerhouse.

“Definitely it is much better to play against Nantes. However, they are also strong and have two great players in each position,” Pesic says. “Probably Kiril Lazarov is their biggest star, and Eduardo Gurbindo is also very good.”

Playing Nantes, Pesic will catch up with a good friend, fellow Croatian Jerko Matulic. Pesic even shared his room with the right wing at the World Championship 2017 in France.

“We played together for Zagreb and for the national team,” Pasic says. “I haven’t talked to him in recent weeks but we are good friends and normally get in touch quite often.”

In the group phase, Brest faced another French team, Paris Saint-Germain. In Paris, they lost by four goals (32:28) before enjoying a surprising revenge at home, 29:28.

“Obviously that victory boosted our confidence. If we play against Nantes the same way as during the first half against PSG, we’ll have a great chance to go through,” Pesic says.

The Belarusian champions finished Group B in sixth, and the Croat is quite happy with that performance.

“It could have been better or worse, but it is what it is,” he says. “After all, our goal for the season was reaching the Last 16 and we did it.”

“I get recognised quite often in the streets”

Pesic, who turned 29 on 17 March, played for Zamet, MVM Veszprém, RK Zagreb and Maribor Branik before signing with Brest in 2013.

Five years ago, he also had an option to move to France.

“I had an offer from Créteil but preferred the Belarusian team, where my fellow countryman Zeljko Babic was the head coach back then,” the keeper says. “I don’t know how my career would have developed in France but I think I made the right choice.”

Looking back to his first years in Brest, Pesic admits times have not always been easy for him.

“I didn’t know the city, the language and the people,” he says. “But now I enjoy the life in Belarus. I get recognised quite often in the streets – that was not the case during my first couple of seasons here, but the club’s marketing department has been doing a great job, so more and more people watch our games and know us.”

Playing in his fifth season with Brest and having won the Belarusian league four times, Pesic believes that the team have been improving every year.

“When I arrived, we didn’t play in the Champions League. Now the squad is better, there are more quality players, so I can feel the difference,” says Pesic, who extended his contract with Brest until 2022 a few months ago.

“We have to make the next step,” he says. “Hopefully some day we will reach the Champions League Quarter-final or, even better, the FINAL4.”

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / ew