After four successes in four Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase games, hosts THW Kiel are already confirmed for its AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals on 17/18 May from the Sparkassen-Arena.

Domagoj Duvnjak, who along side Niklas Landin along with Patrick Wiencek is one of three team captains for its Zebras, currently hopes to finish the Group Phase having an abysmal record and to win the trophy as a farewell gift for outgoing coach Alfred Gislason.

In 2014, shortly after directing HSV Hamburg into the VELUX EHF Champions League title, the former IHF World Player of the Year transferred to Kiel. THW haven’t won any European silverware since their third and last VELUX EHF Champions League title in 2012, so Duvnjak is excited to acquire a trophy that he has not previously raised.

Eurohandball.com: Would you expect to parade through the Group Phase and to hold a ticket for your own AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals following four games?

Domagoj Duvnjak: We didn’t know exactly what to expect before the season and we didn’t realize that much about our competitions too, as THW has not played at the EHF Cup forever. So I did not expect to be so dominant, however in the end, we had some issues against Pulawy on home ground and at GOG until we had sealed the offer.

Eurohandball.com: But you and your teammates are motivated to continue to maintain a fresh record before ending?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Obviously, we are THW, and THW always desire to acquire – any match, any possible title.

Eurohandball.com: Kiel have won that the EHF Cup three times, but you need not won this trophy so far on your career. Are THW the favorites, especially obtaining your home advantage on your own side?

Domagoj Duvnjak: I aspire to gain this trophy, as any title is special for almost any player, mainly when you get the prize for the first time. Maybe we would be the favorites, however we don’t really know the remaining three teams who will be a portion of this championship. I’ve played many final tournaments to learn that you want to play with two perfect games in just two days – and you will not ever predict what will happen.

Eurohandball.com: however, you can call a sold-out arena at the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals, as more than 6,000 tickets have recently been booked before the official beginning of ticket deals. Can you expect such an interest?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Our fans are simply incredible and mad! We had a lot more than 8,000 fans at our home games of the EHF Cup, more than 500 followed us into the off match at GOG.  We can expect a fantastic atmosphere at the final championship, with tremendous support for all of us.

Eurohandball.com: The AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals will be the past international games for Alfred Gislason as THW coach.

Domagoj Duvnjak: Alfred absolutely deserves this trophy, as he did much for that club. So if we need a unique motive, then okay, we win it for Alfred. A fantastic and productive age will come to an end at Kiel considering there are all these names, so what else might be better for you to get this trophy?

Eurohandball.com: Coming back again for you along with your role from the team, you seem to be in a far better physical form than in the previous season.

Domagoj Duvnjak: Yup, I did not miss any match of the season so far, which feels very great. I feel far better than in previous years, after I was eliminated by lots of injuries. I’m not twenty years old anymore, however it looks quite good and I am happy that I will help the team in a far better way than in prior seasons.

Eurohandball.com: Generally speaking, do you presume THW Kiel – notably your own back court players – look stronger?

Domagoj Duvnjak: This really is true, we’re perhaps not hit hard by major injuries from the present season, which is our constant problem within the last few years – and now it is my hope that this continues before end of the growing season. We are able to rotate more, and generally speaking , our team is well-rehearsed and very strong.

Eurohandball.com: Apart from the EHF Cup, THW remain in the race for those names in the German Cup, where you have qualified for the semi-final, also in the Bundesliga, even though you’re now six points below Flensburg. Just how many decorations are potential in this age?

Domagoj Duvnjak: As I said, you can’t predict final championships, however I really expect that we’re able to play in Hamburg at the cup weekend and at the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals.

When we win all remaining Bundesliga matches, we’re at least runners-ups, that has been our minimum goal for that season. However, if Flensburg stumble, you would like to be there. 

TEXT: Björn Pazen/jh