Duvnjak: “We are THW, and THW want to win all titles”
After four victories in four Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase matches, hosts THW Kiel are already confirmed for the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals on 17/18 May in the Sparkassen-Arena.
Domagoj Duvnjak, who alongside Niklas Landin and Patrick Wiencek is one of three team captains for the Zebras, now hopes to finish the Group Phase with an unbeaten record and to win the trophy as a farewell gift for outgoing coach Alfred Gislason.
In 2014, right after steering HSV Hamburg to the VELUX EHF Champions League title, the former IHF World Player of the Year transferred to Kiel. THW have not won any European silverware since their third and last VELUX EHF Champions League title in 2012, so Duvnjak is eager to win a trophy which he has not previously raised.
eurohandball.com: Did you expect to march through the Group Phase and to already hold a ticket for the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals after four matches?
Domagoj Duvnjak: We did not know what to expect before the season and we did not know that much about our opponents as well, as THW has not played in the EHF Cup for ages. So I did not expect to be so dominant, but in the end, we had some problems against Pulawy on home ground and at GOG until we had sealed the deal.
eurohandball.com: But still, you and your teammates are motivated to keep a clean record until the end?
Domagoj Duvnjak: Of course, we are THW, and THW always want to win - any match, any potential title. We will put the pedal to the metal until the end of the Group Phase.
eurohandball.com: Kiel have won the EHF Cup already three times, but you have not won this trophy so far in your career. Are THW the favourites, particularly having the home advantage on your side?
Domagoj Duvnjak: I hope to win this trophy, as any title is special for any player, mainly when you win the trophy for the first time. Maybe we are the favourites, but we do not even know the remaining three teams who will be part of the tournament. I have played so many final tournaments to know that you need to play two perfect matches in two days - and you can never predict what will happen.
eurohandball.com: But you can predict a sold-out arena at the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals, as more than 6,000 tickets have already been reserved even before the official start of ticket sales. Did you expect such an interest?
Domagoj Duvnjak: Our fans are simply incredible and crazy! We had more than 8,000 fans at our home matches of the EHF Cup, more than 500 accompanied us to the away match at GOG. We can expect a great atmosphere at the final tournament, with huge support for us.
eurohandball.com: The AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals will be the last international matches for Alfred Gislason as THW coach. Will the team give him the trophy as his leaving present?
Domagoj Duvnjak: Alfred definitely deserves this trophy, as he did so much for the club. So if we need a special motivation, then okay, we win it for Alfred. A great and successful era will come to an end at Kiel with so many titles, so what else could be better for him to win this trophy?
eurohandball.com: Coming back to you and your role in the team, you seem to be in a much better physical form than in the previous season.
Domagoj Duvnjak: Yes, I did not miss any match of the season so far, which feels really great. I feel much better than in previous years, when I was ruled out by many injuries. I’m not 20 years old anymore, but it looks quite good and I am happy that I can help the team in a much better way than in previous seasons.
eurohandball.com: In general, do you think THW Kiel - especially your back court players - look stronger?
Domagoj Duvnjak: This is true, we are not hit hard by major injuries in the current season, which has been our constant problem in the last few years - and I hope this lasts until the end of the season. We can rotate more, and in general, our squad is well-rehearsed and really strong.
eurohandball.com: Besides the EHF Cup, THW are still in the race for the titles in the German Cup, where you have qualified for the semi-final, and in the Bundesliga, although you’re now six points below Flensburg. How many trophies are possible in this season?
Domagoj Duvnjak: As I said, you cannot predict final tournaments, but I hope that we can perform in Hamburg at the German cup weekend and then at the AKQUINET EHF Cup Finals.
If we win all remaining Bundesliga matches, we are at least runners-ups, which was our minimum goal for the season. But if Flensburg stumble, we want to be there.Author: Björn Pazen/jh