Metz want to go back to Budapest

In their 20th season in the EHF Champions League, Metz Handball reached the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 for the first time. Even though they finished fourth in Budapest, the taste of the event has made Metz hungry for more.

However, the French side will have to overcome several hurdles in order to do so in 2019/20.

Three questions before the season:

– Can Metz reach the EHF FINAL4 again?

“Anyone who doesn’t move forward, moves back.” Club president Thierry Weizman’s mantra has worked well for Metz in the last couple of seasons, culminating in the team’s first participation in the EHF FINAL4 in the 2018/19 season. “It’s like a drug, this EHF FINAL4, we really want to go back there,” Weizman says. But his team will have to cope with the departure of defensive mastermind Beatrice Edwige to Györ and with Xenia Smits’ shoulder injury, which will keep her off the court until the end of the year.

– Can anyone replace Beatrice Edwige?

Losing a player of Edwige’s calibre will always cost some time to adjust to. Newcomer Olga Perederiy will have an important role to play in offence, while Astride N’Gouan will get more responsibility in guarding Metz’ goal. The efficiency of this duo could be a crucial factor to Metz’s chances in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League.

– Are youngsters like Orlane Kanor and Méline Nocandy ready for the big task?

Last season saw these two young players shine, both with Metz and in the French national team. But coach Emmanuel Mayonnade is aware that there is obviously still room for improvement. With the absence of Xenia Smits, Kanor will carry even more responsibilities. Last season she has shown that should be up for the task.

Under the spotlight: Louise Burgaard

At 26, the Danish right back has joined a club outside Denmark for the first time in her career. Metz have high hopes from the newcomer. Her predecessor, Aleksandra Zych, failed to convince and Gnonsiane Niombla, who mainly played right back last season, has left the club. Since Ana Gros left two seasons ago, Metz have been looking for a stalwart on the position. Burgaard has got all the qualities needed.

Self-esteem

“This group is on a very high level, with four very good teams which play different types of handball,” says captain Grace Zaadi. In order to qualify for the main round, Metz will have to leave of their opponents behind: EHF FINAL4 participants Kristiansand, quarter-finalist, FTC, and Croatian side Podravka. “The idea is not only to qualify, but to do it with as many points as possible in order to be in the best possible position in the main round,” adds coach Mayonnade.

What the numbers say

Nine Metz players are part of the French national team. That might be lower than the number of Montenegrin internationals in the Buducnost squad, but it is obvious that the Metz players know each other very well. And habits can often help to win close games in the EHF Champions League.

Fun fact

Metz haven’t lost a home game in the DELO Women’s EHF Champions League since January 2017. Only titleholders Györ have a longer unbeaten home streak. It is a strength which makes progressing to the next round easier.

  Metz Handball (FRA)

Qualification for Women’s EHF Champions League 2019/20 season:   French champions

Newcomers: Marie-Hélène Sajka (Toulon/FRA), Louise Burgaard (Herning-Ikast/DEN), Olga Perederiy (RK Krim Mercator/SLO)

Left the club: Béatrice Edwige (Györ/HUN), Gnonsiane Niombla (Siófok/HUN), Aleksandra Zych (Dortmund/GER), Ekaterina Levsha (Astrakhanochka/RUS)

Coach: Emmanuel Mayonnade (since January 2015)

Team captain: Grace Zaadi

Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2019/20 season): 21
Semi-finals (1): 2019/2
Qarter-finals (2): 2016/17, 2017/18
Main Round (2): 2011/12, 2014/15
Last 16 (2): 1994/95, 1995/96
Last 32 (1): 1993/94
Group Matches (8): 1996/97, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2013/14
Qualification (4): 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Final: 2012/13; Quarter-finals: 2000/01, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2007/08

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-finals: 1998/99, 2003/04, 2009/10, 2010/11

French league:
23 titles (1989, 1990, 1993-1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004-2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016-19)

French cup:
9 titles (1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019)

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew