All three French teams firing on all cylinders
November 15, 2017
By Kevin Domas
For the second time in a row, all three French teams taking part in the VELUX EHF Champions League won their games this past weekend. While one of them is qualified for the next phase already, it could be a sign for something bigger?
It was the clash of handball titans. Veszprem’s visit to Paris kept all it promised – but in the end, the Hungarians conceded their first defeat of the season (28-33), while Paris took the top spot in Group B.
“It hurts a little bit but we’re pretty confident that we can claim the top spot again, at home, next weekend,” stated William Accambray after the final whistle.
The battle between the two top contenders for the Champions League title was fierce, but Paris proved to be more effective in the crucial moments of the match.
Thierry Omeyer and Nikola Karabatic were instrumental to the success while Edouard Kempf, the young right winger who only made his fourth appearance this season, proved to be the X-factor, scoring the last six goals for the French side.
But, even though Paris is now on top of group B, Nikola Karabatic doesn’t want to think any further than next weekend:
“I think that, in the last ten minutes, we got a taste of what the game will be like in Hungary.
“Today, our defense proved to be key, even though we experienced some trouble in the second half, which allowed Veszprem to get back into the game.”
Paris is only halfway through a monstrous Novembe schedule, which includes two games against Kielce and Veszprem, respectively. The easiest part of the task – if there is one – is winning the home games. Now comes the harder part.
The other French side – Nantes – might not be a top seat, but they’ve left a pretty good impression, so far. Saying it bluntly, they’ve won the games they needed to win, and only lost against the better teams. And they even grabbed a point against Rhein-Neckar Löwen along the way.
It’s crazy how a team that’s unable to beat Chambéry and Ivry in the French league, are able to take points in Plock and Szeged, in some of Europe’s most difficult arenas.
“I can’t think that my players are choosing some games over others. But fact is that we are showing a very pleasant attitude in the Champions League – showing solidarity and unity and strength – something we’re struggling to display on national soil,” regrets coach Thierry Anti.
In Szeged this weekend, just like in Plock last week, Nantes didn’t panic when the Hungarians pushed in the dying moments of the game. In fact, they even found some efficiency in defense, backed by Cyril Dumoulin between the posts. And to put a cherry on top of it all, Rudolf Faluvegi scored seven times in his first game since arriving in France.
Halfway through the group phase, Nantes has now secured fourth spot in their group. The first three, occupied by Vardar, Rhein-Neckar and Barcelona, appear to be out of reach.
For Montpellier, nothing seems to be out of reach. Seven victories in seven matches, leaves quite an impression, and the boys don’t want to stop there. They may have secured their play-off berth already, but they also want to conquer the top spot. And with only one point needed over the course of three games, the objective should be achieved shortly.
“The encounter with Metalurg looks like the key game in the second half of the group phase for us.
“If we win, first place is almost secure, but if we lose, we could fall back and Zaporoshye will be in striking distance again,” says Montpellier’s manager.
Last season, the French side managed to eliminate Kielce and almost Veszprem. No one knows what will happen next, but Montpellier is on such a run that nothing seems impossible.