Time for a rebound
May 25, 2018
By Kevin Domas
Recent days have been tough for Montpellier. On Tuesday, the guys not only lost an away game in Saint-Raphaël, but probably the championship as well after enjoying a six-point advantage as short as three months ago.
In this bizarre state of mind Montpellier’s players arrived in Cologne, on Thursday evening, to take part in their first ever VELUX EHF Champions League Final4.
“It took us some hours – maybe a day – to recover, but by now we have put aside what happened and will focus on the Final4.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, let’s try to move on to something else,” said right-back Valentin Porte at the EHF Media Call, in Cologne on Friday.
Will 72 hours be enough for heads to clear and recover from a handball disaster? Hard to say, but the never ending flow of questions about losing the grip of the national title won’t do any good to Valentin Porte and his team-mates. Or maybe it does?
“When you lose the top spot so late before the finishing line and after leading (the league ed.) for so long, it hurts,” agrees Melvyn Richardson, who also mentioned intense talks between the players to help the team recover as soon as possible.
Bouncing back is something that Montpellier’s players have been able to do successfully in the past. For example, when they lost against Aix, in a frustrating “Starligue” game before regrouping, going to Barcelona and qualifying for the Champions League quarterfinal.
“That’s exactly the kind of reaction we’re going to need. For sure, the disappointment is bigger now, but what’s in front of us – the Final4 – could be very gratifying if we do something right,” says Porte.
But before talking about trophies, or even a final appearance, Montpellier will have to deal with Vardar Skopje, the current titleholder. There are many un-written rules in Cologne, including one that a club can’t win twice in a row.
And Montpellier wants to confirm the “rule”, in their very own interest.
“I don’t think Vardar were too happy when they saw our name in the draw. Playing against a team that has eliminated Flensburg and Barcelona, you can hardly say that you’re in for a good time,” smiles Porte, cracking a joke at last.
The French national player was in charge of video analysis right before the FINAL4 semifinal, as is the tradition in Montpellier. What he saw is not exactly a style opposition.
”I’d say Vardar and us are pretty similar, except they’re taller and bigger compared to us,” says Porte, who thinks that the Macedonian team will have more pressure on their shoulders than his own team.
“They’re the titleholder, everybody expects them to win. But that doesn’t mean we came to visit the zoo in the Cologne.
“We’re here to achieve something extraordinary,” concludes the right-back.
Over the course of 60 minutes, Montpellier have beaten Kielce, Flensburg, Barcelona and Paris in the last two seasons. And Vardar looks like a team they could add to that list. But in order to do so, Kavticnic & Co. have to clear their heads and possibly more.