17.05.2017, 08:20 Joel Da Silva: “We are not here to make up numbers”
INTERVIEW: Saint-Raphael coach Joel Da Silva is confident his side will put their stamp on the final tournament
Joel Da Silva: “We are not here to make up numbers”
For the first time ever, Saint-Raphael Var Handball will play in the LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals. Along with three German teams, the task will be tough for the French side, but coach Joel Da Silva is confident his side will put their stamp on the final tournament.
Does this LIQUI MOLY EHF Cup Finals 2017 participation feel like an accomplishment?
Joel Da Silva: In some way, it does. The club reached the quarter-finals three times in the past, this season was the fourth. Our semi-final presence is a reward for the work we've done over the past few seasons. We've invested a lot of time and a lot of energy to create a strong and dynamic and club. But we don't want to think about making it so far as the end goal; we are not here to make up the numbers.
Did you feel in danger after your two initial defeats in the group phase?
Joel Da Silva: Of course we did. Losing the first game at home against GOG put us in a difficult position and we went to Berlin knowing that we could be out if we lost there. But we didn’t and after the game against Füchse, I told my boys that the four remaining games in the group phase were knock-out ones. We focused on each game at the time and managed to do everything right.
On the other hand, it felt like you didn't feel any pressure against MT Melsungen in the quarter-finals...
Joel Da Silva: We did, though, but we were very strong. We rediscovered the strength we sometimes displayed last season. But this quarter-final was closely linked to the last group phase match against Berlin, which we won. I think that beating Füchse helped the squad understand how good we could be. We had beaten French Champions League teams like PSG, Nantes and Montpellier but were yet to beat a foreign one. In a game in which a loss would have led to the end of our competition, we gained so much confidence. And we used it in Melsungen in a sold-out arena with an amazing atmosphere; we played exactly how he wanted to and at times it felt like nothing could happen to us.
Is this win against Berlin one of the biggest moments of the season?
Joel Da Silva: Yes. They are definitely a “Champions League team”, they've won the Super Globe twice, they've beaten PSG in the final this season - they’re definitely an impressive team. Their experience - individually and collectively - makes them somewhat superior to us right now, I reckon.
So how does it feel to face them again in the semi-final?
Joel Da Silva: The finals are another competition; completely different to the games we've played against them in the group phase. This will be a game with a title at stake. The winning team will play the final, and I think that Berlin are the favourites in this case. They have so much experience, the club and the players. Hans Lindberg has played more European Cup games than the whole of my squad. We're still collecting such experience. And I wonder how we're going to cope with the event? Will we be able to cope with the atmosphere and all the things around it? Will we be able to stick to our plan? The answers to these questions will be decisive in the end result.
Does it feel like the Füchse are the main favourites?
Joel Da Silva: As phony as it may sound, I think all four teams can win. I was in Nantes last year, and Göppingen certainly were not favourites but they won. They're playing at home, which is an advantage of course, and they are your typical “cup team”. Berlin remain my personal favourite because of their experience, their budget and the fact that they're in the top four in the Bundesliga this season. But Magdeburg are on an impressive run at the moment and they will have their say there too. As for us, we have won six games in a row in the EHF Cup, we just won a tough quarter-finals in style, and we've beaten Berlin this season already - as you can see, it's tough to name the winner.