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EHF FINAL4 Men 2022 flash quotes

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Flash quotes from the weekend of the EHF FINAL4 Men 2022 in Cologne, beginning with Friday's media calls through to Sunday's finals.

Sunday 19 June

FINAL

Barça vs Lomza Vive Kielce

Carlos Ortega (ESP) — Barça coach:

On the final:

“Kielce and Barca both could win. It was really close. Kielce played an amazing season, and only little things decided today for us. For me it was a really difficult season as a new coach, but I did not think of all the pressure to win this second title in a row. For a club like Barça it is always important to arrive at the [EHF] FINAL4 — then everything is possible. You must be ready for everything, and sometimes it works, sometimes no. Now I am extremely proud of my players.”

On his seventh Champions League trophy:

“I won six as a player. Now it is another story. It is never easy to win this title. I am really proud, but that does not mean nothing special for me — the trophy is for our club and our section, not for me.”

Dika Mem (FRA) — Barça right back

On the final:

“For me, it was the hardest game in my life since I am a professional. It was amazing with a lot of emotion. Finally, we won this final on penalties. It means a lot for me. I am proud of my team. We showed a lot of character yesterday and today, as both matches were not easy for us. Today we made history. We will enjoy this title, but still we want more.”

Thiagus Petrus (BRA) — Barça left back

On the final:

"The match was too exciting. I prefer the way we won the final last year. But the way we won the match today shows that we can win such tight matches.

"We made history by winning the Champions League title [in Cologne] back-to-back. We hope to come back next year and win the next one."

On what the team felt after the match:

"We were really tired. We gave our all on the court. Right now I don't remember anything from the match. I have to watch it again later."

Talant Dujshebaev (ESP) — Kielce coach

On the final:

“In the penalty shootout in 2016 we were lucky. Today they were lucky. It was so close. Gonzalo [Perez de Vargas] saved one shot — it was not a big difference. I am very proud of my team. We played three matches against Barça and we never lost after regular time. This makes me proud. And I have to give my biggest gratitude to Alex [Dujshebaev]. He is the best player in the world. It is very difficult for him. As a coach and as a father I have to say: Alex you are the best — the best I have in my life.” 

Dylan Nahi (FRA) — Kielce left wing 

On the final:

“It was a very hard game. Finally they won, but still I am proud of my teammates, my coach and all the staff. I hope we come back next year.”

Andreas Wolff (GER) — Kielce goalkeeper

On the final:

"First of all, we have to come to terms with this defeat. At the moment, it hurts a lot to have lost the final. We won the strongest group, defeated a strong opponent with Veszprém in the semi-finals and now played against the reigning champions in the final. We had the chance to win the game but were unlucky at the crucial moments.

"We'll go a step further next season so that we'll be there again. Now it's time to draw strength from the defeat and come back stronger.”

On the EHF FINAL4 2022:

"It has been two intense days — a very intense but also very nice time. It's a childhood dream come true to be able to play here. Now it's time to come to terms with the defeat and the fact that we didn't reach the goal of our dreams."

Artsem Karalek (BLR) — Kielce line player

On being awarded MVP:

"Being nominated MVP of the EHF FINAL4 makes me happy. However, if I could, I would immediately change that trophy for the winner's trophy. 1,0000 MVPs aren't worth more than winning the final."

 

3/4 PLACEMENT MATCH 

THW Kiel vs Telekom Veszprém HC 

Niklas Landin, goalkeeper of THW Kiel

On the victory:

"It was hard match, as it is always difficult to play two days in a row, we knew we have to get all energy we still had to win. We wanted to finish this long season successfully and this is what we made."

 

Filip Jicha, coach of Kiel

On the match:

"It is very hard to describe my feelings after this insane match. Both teams deserved to win today, but in the end I admit that I had no idea what my team is capable of, and of what they did in the second half. We were dead after 15 minutes we were just so tired. Veszprém were much faster. In the break I talked to my assistant, how we shall survive, but then the guys showed energy and trust, Niklas had some important saves in the last 15 minutes. I am very, very proud on my players, this match was  like a commercial for handball, but now we are all happy to be in a vacation mode sitting at the beach soon. And of course a big thanks to Veszprém for an amazing fight." 

 

Bjarte Myrhol, line player of Kiel

On the victory: 

"It was a great game and a great fight. Two weeks ago I sat in my office and was on the way to the golf course, when I received Kiel’s call. Now I finished my career in front of 20,000 fans – this was like a fairy tale, my officially last match at Tokyo was in front of zero spectators and was horrible. It is great to end the career like this with THW. I was dreaming of playing for Kiel, and never got an offer. Now I turned 40 and had thrown my shoes in the trash can and still I was here today." 

 

Momir Ilic, coach Veszprém

On the defeat:

"Both teams showed a big fight – and no one expected a fight like this in a placement match, I am happy for handball, this was a true promotion, both teams gave everything, it was amazing for the fans to see this match with so much speed and goals. I am proud of my guys, and in my first season as coach we played very good handball, in the end we were missing some things, but we are on a good a way and believe in our dream. 

 

Yahia Omar, right back of Veszprém

On the final result:

"It was a tough game, in which we had our weak moments in the second half. I have no explanation, what happened. Kiel had the momentum and scored from nine metres, we have to learn from the last ten, 15 minutes." 

 

Rasmus Lauge Schmidt, right back of Veszprém

On finishing fourth:

"I'm so proud of the team, everyone around the team, the club, the city. It it what is its, we still can be proud of ourselves to have come so far. What happend this weekend doesn't define our season. We played a fantastic season. We didn't get what we deserve, we couldn't take the trophy. Next year, we come back and take it."

On the defeat against Kiel:

"It was a matter of resources. We couldn't stop Kiel from coming back in the last 15 minutes, that's unfortunate. Losing against Kielce yesterday still hurts."

 

Kentin Mahe, centre back of Veszprém

On the defeat against Kiel:

"Was Kiel the better team? I don't know."

On finishing fourth:

"We trained well, were in a good mood and well prepared. In the end, the result is very frustrating. We had had a very good feeling ahead of this weekend. Finishing fourth, is very painful. But this is the EHF FINAL4."

 

Niclas Ekberg, right wing of Kiel

On his feelings after the match:

"We were bound to show a good performance and to win today, also for our fans. I am happy that we have made it happen."

On Kiel’s performance during the second half:

"In the second half we could show of what we are really capable. This match was a real head game.”

 

Patrick Wiencek, line player of Kiel

On whether he considers winning the third place a success:

“I would say ending the Champions league winning the third is definitely a “real” success. We wanted to win the match in any case and we have never won the third place before.”

On what playing the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne was like:

“Playing in Cologne is always special. The atmosphere was great and our fans enjoyed the tournament a lot, even though we only ended up on the third place. We will do our best to come back again next year and to take the trophy home this time.”

 

Niklas Landin, goalkeeper of Kiel

On what winning the placement match means to him and his team:

"It was a great match and winning means a lot to us. This third place is definitely a success."

On how Kiel approached the match:

“We knew that we only had these 60 minutes to go and then could head for our well-deserved holidays. Because of that, we approached the game with a certain composure and played more freely than in the semifinal against Barca.”

On Kiel’s performance in the first half and the outcome of the match:

"What counts is how the match ends. If you win, a not so good performance in the first half is no longer essential."

On an outlook to the next season:

"We will start the new season in a good mood and again tackle the goal of becoming the winner of the EHF FINAL4."

Saturday 18 June

SEMI-FINAL 

THW Kiel vs Barça 

Carlos Ortega, coach of Barça

On the victory:

"It was a really nice handball match. In the second half, the difference was our goalkeeper, in the first half, Kiel were better thanks to their 7-against-6. It is really important to arrive in the final after a difficult year. But in the end, if you finish second, third or fourth makes no differences, it is all about winning the final. It was not easy to beat a super-team such as Kiel, tomorrow we face another top team, which beat us twice."  

 

Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, goalkeeper Barça

On the game: 

"It was a nice game and Kiel were missing key players, but gave a tough fight. It feels great to be again in the final. We are one step ahead of the trophy, but the last step is the most difficult one. Kielce beat us twice this season, but we are much better now than in November." 

On the motivation to win his fourth trophy: 

"For winning the Champions League you do need any extra-motivation. After your career you can check what you won, not now. We just have to do the best job and hope to defend the title. Our coaches Carlos (Ortega) and Tomas (Svensson) won the trophy much more often, we have the chance to get closer. It is difficult to reach a final, we do not need any extra motivation now. 

On winning the semi-final:

"It's an exciting moment, being in the EHF FINAL4 and playing the final. Now, we have to recover for tomorrow."

On the possibility of defending the title:

"It would be great defending the title, but we will mainly focus on the game."

On the final against Kielce:

"It's going to be a tough game, a physical game above everything."

 

Filip Jicha, coach of Kiel

On the defeat:

"I am very proud of my players, because they fought like lions and did everything. In the end, Barça deserved to win. This is hard to say as a coach. After this long season and such a constellation everyone tried to surprise Barça and played really well in the first half. Gonzalo made some saves and gave Barca the air they needed. We tried everything and we changed the defence. We have to admit that we cannot win every match, I wish all luck for the final, we put everything we had left in our legs and brains and try to win tomorrow. 

On Veszprém:  

"We lost and we are out, but we have to play on Sunday. Both teams really do not want to play this match, we just try and keep the heads up. We fight until the end of the season, it hurts to be out, but we have to try." 

 

Nikola Bilyk, left back of Kiel

On the match:

"We tried to do everything we could to win this game, but unfortunately, they were better today. We have to put everything on the court on Sunday and try to get the third place to end the season with a nice win." 

 

Rune Dahmke, left wing of Kiel

On his feelings after the match:

"I feel so very disappointed. I cannot believe that we lost. This really hurts."

 

Niklas Ekberg, right wing of Kiel

On Sunday's match for the third place:

"It was a close match but Barca was just better than us. We will give everything tomorrow to make our fans proud and win the match for the third place."

 

Niklas Landin, goalkeeper of Kiel 

On what prevented Kiel from turning over and winning the match:

"In the second half we didn’t really get back into the game even though we gave our best. However we have a great club and great fans who stand behind us. The team stands together and wants to bring the season to a good end."

 

Telekom Veszprém HC vs Lomza Vive Kielce

 

Talant Dujshebaev, coach Kielce

On what changed after the break:  

"The result after 60 minutes is most important, not the half-time result. In the first half we did not play so bad, but our goalkeepers had only five saves, Veszprém had eight, this was the difference. But after the break Andreas Wolff showed some great and important saves and gave us power, this changed the match, Andy’s saves were decisive." 

Dani Dujshebaev, right back of Kielce: 

"We are one step closer to our objective, which is winning the Champions League. Tomorrow we will need another great fight, no matter who wins the second semi-final, it will be a top team. We try to win again."

Momir Ilic, coach Veszprém: 

On the defeat:

"The second half was difficult to play, as it seemed we always had one less player on court, but I cannot rate those situations, as I did not see them all. But this was the key and decided the match, we had some unlucky situations, as we missed some shots and lost some balls."  

On the significance of the red card against Blaz Blagotinsek: 

"I cannot say, if it was a red card, as I did not see it, maybe two minutes would have been enough. We changed our defence which was also good, as in some situations we put Kielce’s attack under pressure. After Blaz was out, we lost the quality of our 6:0 defence." 

Manuel Strlek, left wing Veszprém: 

On the lost match:

"We are finishing the season on Sunday, and I want to finish the season with a victory, though it is  difficult to play a placement match. We believed in our victory and we played really good handball, but this is the EHF FINAL4 – we saw a lot of amazing matches and surprises, therefore people love handball. Next year, we want to come back."  

Alex Dujshebaev, right back of Kielce

On the victory:

"The first half wasn't as good as we expected, but okay. We were very patient. In the second half, our patience and our good defence was the key."

"In the second half we were mentally strong. And with our good attack and defence we turned the game around."

"We are ready for the final, for sure. We come here to win. Now the final is the last step."

 

Andreas Wolff, goalkeeper of Kielce

On reaching the final:

"I am very happy that we are in the final now. We showed incredible morale. We showed a lot of heart, a lot of character and deserve to be in the final."

On Kiel as opponent in the final?

"Personally, of course, it's special to play against your former club, especially as a German. But Kiel is also one of the biggest clubs in the world. But as defending champions, we definitely have a lot of respect for Barcelona. Both are fantastic teams that play at the highest level."

Rasmus Lauge, left back of Veszprém

On reasons why they lost and what happened in the second half:

“We made too many stupid mistakes in the second half and got too many two minutes. Kielce on the other hand played amazingly good.”

On tomorrow’s match for the third place:

“We have a possibility to show up tomorrow and give something back to our fans who made a long way to support us."

Friday 17 June

Media call: THW Kiel

Quotes from THW Kiel players Patrick Wiencek (GER), Magnus Landin (GER), Nikola Bilyk (AUT) and Bjarte Myrhol (NOR), and coach Filip Jicha (CZE) at the media call before the EHF FINAL4 Men 2022 begins with the semi-finals in LANXESS arena on Saturday.

Patrick Wiencek (GER) — line player

On the chances of winning the semi-final against Barcelona:

“We have to stop Barcelona’s attack. They have the best attack and, with Dika Mem, the best back player in the Champions League, so it’s of course enormously important that we stop him so that he doesn’t score so many goals. That’s why our defence is the most important thing.

On the absences due to injury:

“We have been missing them for some time now. We had some games now where we could adjust to them not being there. Based on this, I think we are set. We have a good squad, a broad squad, and now, of course, the players who haven't played much have to step up, and they've done that in recent weeks, so I don't think that that will make a big difference.”

What it means as a German team to play in front of fans again:

“Two years ago, we were here and, of course, we had no spectators. Now we have the opportunity to play in front of our spectators, so it will be a different tournament.”

Filip Jicha (CZE) — coach

On the possibility of winning the fourth Champions League title in his career:

“For me personally, it is always an honour to be here. It's a top-class event — for me the best in the handball world. That's why it makes me proud that we can be here.”

On the importance of the spectators:

“You're playing against three top teams here. I don't think they are necessarily influenced by whether the spectators are for or against them. They already have the quality — a world-class squad. If we're going to beat Barcelona here on Saturday, we're going to need a bit of a sporting sensation. And that definitely makes us a bit unpredictable as well, because we definitely have nothing to lose with our two key players injured.”

On the semi-final opponent Barcelona:

“I know that we are definitely not the desired opponent of Barcelona. We have to profit from that. We can't let Barcelona get rolling. We have to stop their run. That will be a Herculean task. If we can keep the match open until in the second half, we have a chance. We'll put everything into it. And Cologne and this arena are always good for that little sporting sensation.”

Nikola Bilyk (AUT) — left back

On what it feels like to be back in the game:

“I followed the last matches from the tribune or the video room and that was big fun but of course it is something completely different to be there as a player on the court. I am really looking forward to it and am happy that the audience is back and that we will play in a sold-out arena.”

On whether his team will be a more dangerous opponent, as the players have to take different roles to replace Sander Sagosen and Hendrik Pekeler:

“Other players and we as a team have to take responsibility now and stand in for them. They have contributed a lot to us being able to stand here now. We will give everything. Anyone who underestimates us is making a big mistake.”

Bjarte Myhol (NOR) — line player

On his feelings about the upcoming match and Kiel’s opponent

“Barça are of course very strong but here in Cologne everything has happened before. There were a lot of surprises and we know everything is possible. Of course, we have respect for Barcelona but we will try to do some magic on the handball field and go out of the match as winner.”

Magnus Landin (DEN) — left wing

On his first appearance on court at the EHF FINAL4: 

“In 2020, I was here with the team, but could not play due to an injury. Now I am here to play, which was one of my main goals and dreams as a player. It is great to be part of this event and it is nice to be the same hotel with all teams. You meet so many well-known faces, and it is fun to see them in a relaxed atmosphere before the matches.”

On the semi-final against Barcelona: 

“There is no room for surprises. Both teams know each other well, both teams belong to the top of Europe, and we are well-prepared for Barcelona. I do not know whether Barcelona have a surprise ahead. We played many matches. We know the players from club and national teams. I am sure it will be a close fight.”

On the fact Kiel have not lost any match against a Spanish team in Cologne: 

“I heard about it. This statistic speaks for itself, and it’s a nice one, and I hope that it will not change on Saturday.”

Media call: Telekom Veszprém HC

Quotes from Telekom Veszprém players Kentin Mahe (FRA), Mate Lekai (HUN), Rasmus Lauge (DEN) and Rodrigo Corrales (ESP) and coach Momir Ilic (SRB) at the media call before the EHF FINAL4 Men 2022 begins with the semi-finals in LANXESS arena on Saturday.

Kentin Mahe (FRA) — centre back

On the fact that no team has defended the title in Cologne:

“It is definitely something that has never happened before — that a team has managed to win the title [in Cologne] twice in a row. That shows that it's incredibly difficult to win here. On a weekend like this, anything is possible, so it’s very difficult to predict what will happen.”

On Veszprém’s role:

“We don't really care who the favourite is. It's a slugfest. No break between the two games. So, we have nothing else on our mind but winning.”

On the key to success:

“In handball, it’s actually no secret that the team that has the best goalkeeping has the upper hand. That’s the be-all and end-all, if you have someone at the back who can save 14 shots, then you have a huge advantage as a team. Of course, goalkeeping will play a big role and we have a goalkeeping duo with that is unique. Vladimir Cupara and Rodrigo Corrales have really been very consistent this season.”

Mate Lekai (HUN) — centre back

On avenging the 2016 final against Kielce in the 2022 semi-final:

“It will be a very tough match but from Kielce, there is, I think, only one player left in the team who participated in the final. In our team, three players participated back then. So, actually taking revenge is not important but it is important to win this match, even if we wouldn’t be playing against Kielce.

“It will be a tough match, a big fight about tactics. Mentally, physically as well.”

On the chance of winning the first title for Veszprém:

“If we win this trophy, this will be the biggest thing for me, for the club, for the fans, for the city, for the country. So, it will be a festival in Hungary if we win.”

Momir Ilic (SRB) — coach

On his expectations at the beginning of the Champions League season:

“When I started coaching Veszprém this year, the goal was just to get through the group stage and now we're in the [EHF] FINAL4. This makes me happy. I was here eight times as a player but it is something very special to be back as a coach for the first time"

Rodrigo Corrales (ESP) — goalkeeper

On how it is to play in front of fans again:

“It is meant to be like that and we are happy that the fans are back. It was hard to see LANXESS arena empty. We always wanted to play in front of spectators but as professional sportsmen we also wanted to compete and have the chance to win the [EHF] FINAL4.”

On his expectations for the weekend:

“We know that these kind of games are special because everyone knows everyone. So, what I always hope is to win by one goal. But of course, I will try to do my best and to perform because as you know goalkeeper’s performance is essential for the team. But if you ask me, to win by one goal is enough.”

Rasmus Lauge (DEN) — centre back

On the chances to win the EHF FINAL4: 

“Honestly, we do not care what others say about our team this season and the chances we would have or not have at Cologne. We believe in ourselves and in our system, which we implemented this year with a new coach and a transition in the club. We changed so many things and compared to the same time in 2021, we are much, much stronger. Last season, this team was in a state of chaos. Now we turned it around completely. We played an outstanding season so far, therefore, we are sure that we have a good chance to win this time.”

On the semi-final against Kielce: 

“It sounds like a cliché, when you say that a match is 50:50 — but in this case, the whole tournament is 50:50. There are no major favourites for the trophy. There are no favourites for our semi-final against Kielce. This year, the tournament is so close and equal. Kielce played a constantly strong season, we played with highs and lows in the first part of the season, but in the second half, we played on the highest level, like, for example, when we beat Aalborg in the first quarter-final. Now we are on highest level, but we need a peak performance to beat Kielce.”

On his 31st Birthday on Monday: 

“If we win, this would definitely be the best birthday of life. I hope that in this case I am allowed to bring the trophy to my house for my birthday party.”

Media call: Barça 

Quotes from Barça players Dika Mem (FRA), Gonzalo Perez de Vargas (ESP), Blaz Janc (SLO) and Aitor Arino (ESP), and coach Carlos Ortega (ESP) at the media call before the EHF FINAL4 Men 2022 begins with the semi-finals in LANXESS arena on Saturday.

Dika Mem (FRA) — right back

On playing in Cologne as the title defenders:

“I feel good. I don’t have any pressure — the team as well. I think a lot of people didn’t expect us to come this far at the beginning of this season, but here we are. We are the defending champions. We will try to play our best and do the best we can and then we see what happens.”

On the injuries of Kiel’s key players:

“They are key players in this team, but it’s not all about [Sander] Sagosen and [Hendrik] Pekeler. They are really good players and important to the team, but Kiel still have a very good team. And the most important thing for them is that they play at home, so it will be tough for us tomorrow. They are still Kiel. They have a really good team, even without Sagosen and Pekeler.”

Gonzalo Perez de Vargas (ESP) — goalkeeper

On Barça’s chances in the semi-final against Kiel:

“We have a bad memory about playing against them in Cologne but we watched the video many times and looked at the statistics. It’s good to learn what they did well and what we need to do in order to win.

“They’re missing key players but they are still dangerous playing in Germany, in Cologne. It’s going to be fun playing against one of the best teams in Europe. The way we have been playing, we have every chance to win.”

On the most important things to win:

“We have to put in the same level of aggressiveness as they do. The physicality in defence is one of their strengths. We have to be faster and find spaces to score.”

On his current performance:

“In the past month it hasn’t been that good. Thank God we didn’t play any important games. But I’m coming here with a lot of expectations, a lot of responsibility too. But also feeling confident, about the team, about myself. I have nothing to prove to anybody. I will try to enjoy it for sure.”

Carlos Ortega (ESP) — coach

On if he thinks that the fact that some of Kiel’s top players are injured makes his task easier:

“Other players will take over their positions. It is a big team and all players are in good form.”

On if he thinks that there is a favorite for this tournament

“This year there is no clear favorite. Of course, we are FC Barcelona and we always fight to win. But all four teams are great. Everything is possible.”

Aitor Arino (ESP) — left wing

On the chance to win his fourth Champions League trophy:

“All Barça players who have won four or more trophies are legends of the club and legends of handball. Gonzalo Perez de Vargas and I have the chance to get closer to those legends if we win our fourth trophy on Sunday. This would be a magic moment for us.”

On the semi-final against Kiel:

“The match against Kiel is dangerous for us, as they have new players in the team. As their important players Sander Sagosen and Hendrik Pekeler are out, they will play with a new style. Miha Zarabec and Nikola Bilyk will take more responsibility.”

On the hopes to be the first to defend the title in Cologne:   

“This is a special motivation. All people talk about it, but first we need to focus on the semi-final and go step by step. But definitely it is good motivation to become the first defending champions to win and to win the 10th trophy in total.”

Blaz Janc (SLO) — right wing

On the chance to defend the trophy: 

“We are happy to be here again, as everybody knows how difficult it is to go all the way to Cologne. This is already a big success for us to be here. All four teams have the same chance to win. No team in history defended the title in Cologne so far, so this is our motivation. We have a chance this year but it will not be easy. We have to show an amazing match against THW Kiel in the semi-final. We try to make history for Barça.”

On the favourite of the EHF FINAL4:

“There are no favourites in this FINAL4. We lost against Kielce twice this season. We lost against Veszprém. We had some problems, and everything will be very open. The four teams are the best of the season and all deserve to be here. Everybody has the same chance.”

On the fact that Kiel has to replace their top players Sander Sagosen and Hendrik Pekeler:

“It makes it more dangerous for us, as you do not know how they will play. When you miss some of the most important players, the remaining players give even more. Kiel think we are the favourites, but sometimes this situation is dangerous for the favourites. It does not make the match easier for us without those two players, but even harder.” 

Media call: Lomza Vive Kielce

Quotes from Lomza Vive Kielce players Alex Dujshebaev (ESP), Andreas Wolff (GER), Igor Karacic (CRO) and coach Talant Dujshebaev (ESP) at the media call before the EHF FINAL4 Men 2022 begins with the semi-finals in LANXESS arena on Saturday.

Talant Dujshebaev (ESP) — coach

On Veszprém’s biggest strength:

“The strong point is, of course, the history of this club. Veszprém is one of the three big teams of the world.”

On the development of Andreas Wolff:

“We know about his quality, his level. Of course, he had a good start at the beginning, but after that with the Corona situation it was difficult with the unusual situation where he couldn’t train.

“Overall, I think he is in very good shape. He shows who Andreas Wolff is in every game. Of course, we always want to see a little bit more from him. But for me, since he is my player, he is of course the best goalkeeper.”

On the key to success in the semi-final:

“We play practically two matches in 24 hours. We need to have players that show their best performance during this day — that is very important. We need to be a little bit lucky and need to have a good performance from our goalkeeper Andreas Wolff.”

On what the Champions League means to him:

“I’m very happy to be here. It is the most important event for every club in the world, especially for a European team. For us, it is amazing to be here after the pandemic with spectators, with journalists. It is the most important show in our career.

“In the world we have three best teams: Barcelona as the number one, after that coming Kiel, after that coming Veszprém. After these three teams other teams are coming, but these three are the biggest ones. For us, to be here is amazing and fighting against these monster clubs is very nice, very beautiful. Everybody can win, but for me, Barça, as the title defenders, are the favourites.”

Alex Dujshebaev (ESP) — right back

On how he sees his team’s form before the semi-final match against Veszprém:

“I’m very confident. I firmly believe in our team and I am sure that we will do our best and give 100 per cent on the court.”

On which team he considers the favourites:  

“The four best teams have come here. We are very close to each other. I think small details will decide on who will be the winning team.”

Andreas Wolf (GER) — goalkeeper

On which team he sees as the favourites:

“All teams that made it to the [EHF] FINAL4 are considered favourites, so I would say the chances for each of them to win are equal.”

On which team would be his favorite opponent for the final and whether he would begrudge his old teammates from Kiel the victory:

“Playing against Kiel in the final would be a dream. I am still friends with many of the Kiel players and we get along well, however, I would not be happy to be defeated by them in the final.”

On the atmosphere at the tournament:

“It is always special to be part of the [EHF] FINAL4. The atmosphere reminds me a lot of World Championships or European championships.”

Igor Karacic (CRO) — centre back

On being back in Cologne: 

“It feels so good to be back. I am really excited. My first year at Kielce was affected by Covid. This was difficult. My second season, some things went wrong. Now I am overjoyed to be here with Kielce in this hotel, in this place, in this arena. We deserve to be here. We played so good the whole season. We were first in the group, and now we are here, and I really feel so excited.”

On how it feels to win the trophy in Cologne: 

“I really hope to win my third trophy, but we will have to see. It is different being here with Kielce, compared to 2017 and 2019 with Vardar.”

On the semi-final: 

“Veszprém have a really strong team. They are sad for losing their last league match against Szeged. We lost our last Cup match against Plock. The situation is the same. It will be a great and open game tomorrow, and I hope we manage to proceed to the final.”

On the favourites to win the trophy:

“Both semi-finals are 50:50, as the four best teams of the season are here — every team has a 25 per cent chance to win the trophy. It is Cologne. It is the [EHF] FINAL4, and you never know what will happen. This is the best of this event — that so many unexpected things happen.” 

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