Dumoulin and Nantes eager to carry on European journeyArticle
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FEATURE: In only their second VELUX EHF Champions League season, the French side are on the brink of advancing to the quarter-finals, giving goalkeeper Cyril Dumoulin "a huge sense of pride."

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Dumoulin and Nantes eager to carry on European journey

Even though HBC Nantes might be relatively new on the Champions League scene, they are still firing on all cylinders this season.

After finishing third in a group which also included likes of Vardar Skopje, FC Barcelona and  Rhein-Neckar Löwen, the French side are now on the verge of qualifying for the VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-finals.

They won the first leg of the Last 16 by eight goals against Meshkov Brest in Belarus on Saturday, a feat unmatched this season by teams like Paris Saint-Germain or Veszprém.

The return leg will be played in France on Sunday, 1 April, at 16:00 hrs (live on ehfTV.com).

"We are now reaping what we sowed years ago"

“When I look back at the season so far, I feel a huge sense of pride. We are now reaping what we sowed in the last couple of years,” goalkeeper Cyril Dumoulin says.

“This season is the fruit of a lot of discussions, a lot of shared moments and also a massive lot of work,” he adds. “When you see how hard it is to make it to the Last 16 of the VELUX EHF Champions League, you can only be proud of your team.”

The French national team goalkeeper is not a newbie when it comes to the biggest European club competition. Back in his Chambéry days, he also defeated sides like Kielce or Barcelona.

But to him, this season feels a little bit different.

“I don’t want to say anything negative about my time then but it feels different,” Dumoulin says. “Of course the clubs are different, but the role I play now in the daily life of the squad is more important.”

Being older and more experienced makes that he doesn’t take anything for granted.

“I value the results even more now,” he says. “I appreciate everything positive even more.”

Second life as a handball player

Dumoulin is living his second life as a handball player. After being branded the next big thing while playing for Chambéry, he took a sideway leading to Toulouse, and things didn't really work his way.

But since 2016, he has been back on the top with Nantes, and his form is certainly a key to the club’s upwards move.

“I have had some moments when things weren't as shiny as they are now,” says Dumoulin, who turned 34 last month. “I have been through things that help me enjoy the moments now. To be part of a club that's building up so fast is amazing to me.”

Two years ago, Nantes played in the EHF Cup Final (which they lost to Frisch Auf Göppingen), now they have an outstanding opportunity to qualify for the Champions League Quarter-finals.

“And all of this with a bunch of friends, that's just crazy,” Dumoulin says.

However, with three games in a week’s time, Nantes have still some work left before their quarter-final spot is guaranteed - including not giving away an eight-goal advantage over Brest on Sunday.

“I can well remember some crazy scenarios in European Cups where too confident teams let such an opportunity slip,” Dumoulin says. “Of course, we are in an ideal position, we couldn't have dreamt of leading the confrontation by eight at this point. But it would be ridiculous if we wasted it.”

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew