Flash quotes: main round group I media calls, 17 January

EHF Logo 100
European Handball Federation

COLOGNE - Comments from Austria head coach Ales Pajovic (SLO) and left back Nikola Bilyk (AUT), and Germany head coach Alfred Gislason (ISL) and centre back Philipp Weber (GER), and France head coach Guillaume Gille (FRA), line player Ludovic Fabregas (FRA) and right back Nédim Rémili (FRA) at media calls on Wednesday.


Ales Pajovic (SLO) – head coach

On qualification for the main round:
“It feels like a dream, to be honest. We were dealt a very tough group, with very tough opponents, such as Spain and Croatia. But after the first win, against Romania, we believed that we can do something great. It is amazing to be here and it is truly a remarkable achievement for us and for Austrian handball.”

On their main round chances:
“It is impossible for our core of players to play seven matches in such short amount of time. Therefore, we will try to balance the minutes for everybody and give minutes to the players who featured less. But we are hungry for more, we want to be a good team. The first match against Hungary will be tough, because they are a very good team, I saw some of their matches and they are playing very good.”

Nikola Bilyk (AUT) – left back

On qualification for the main round:
 “Amazing, just amazing. We showed that we belong here, we are a good team and it is just amazing to do this with this players, many of us have been together since we were little and we were always talking about doing great things. So here we are, doing something excellent and it feels even more special.”

On the main round in Cologne:
“Many of our players, especially the ones playing in Austria, are not used to this kind of atmosphere. I am eager to play in Cologne, in front of a full arena, especially as Germany are also playing here. I am happy to be here and we will do our best to deliver the best performances in the next matches, against strong opponents.”


Alfred Gislason (ISL) - head coach

 On arriving in Cologne:
“The reception we had at the station was incredible, it’s really nice this thing was set up for us. The first training went good, and the journey from Berlin was not too tiring. I’m really looking forward to playing in the LANXESS Arena tomorrow.”

On the work after the loss against France:
“We talked a lot and we have done already a lot of video. We did not do things well enough to beat France, even though there were a lot of positive aspects. We’re going to need to be better, even though we do not have much time to prepare, in order to beat Iceland.”

On his comeback to the LANXESS Arena:
“I’ve lived a lot of emotions here, some titles as well with THW Kiel. But I have good memories in many arenas in Germany, like in Hamburg and Flensburg, where we played in the preparation, or Berlin too. But now is all about the future, not the past. It is an amazing moment for me to be the coach of the German national team, during a tournament like this.”

On his relationship with Iceland:
“I have been a Icelandic national player for 10 years and I’ve lived in Germany for a very long time, so for me, it is hard to pick one. I’m very happy as things are, I’m very proud to be Icelandic but also to be the coach of the German national team. Now is not about the feelings and the emotions, tomorrow’s game is very important and this is the only ting we must focus on.”

On the Iceland national team:
“They are a very good team, I was surprised they lost yesterday, but Hungary were better than them. They have three fantastic players on the backcourt, very few national teams have such quality on the backcourt.

“There is a lot of quality on the wings as well, but I think the key player is Aron Pálmarsson. We know a lot of these players because they play in the Bundesliga and we see them a lot. Haukur Thrastarson is also able to make some differences. We will really have to give a great performance if we want to beat them.”

On the atmosphere he expects in the LANXESS Arena:
“I have absolutely no doubt that the atmosphere here will match the one in Berlin and Dusseldorf. You can see every year how much the people of Cologne love handball, we also experienced it when we played a friendly game here. When you have such a powerful fanbase, of course it makes everything easier.”

On preparing for the game:
“To me, it has not been different from all the previous games. I prepared Iceland as I will do Croatia, for example. Of course, I played with some of the Icelandic players’ fathers, like Ómar Ingi Magnusson’s father, but this game is just one of the four we will play in the main round. My feelings don’t come into account. But it is quite simple to prepare a game against players that you see all year round.”

Philipp Weber (GER) - centre back

On starting the main round with zero points:
"That's the way it is, and there is no use thinking about what has been done in the preliminary round. Now the equation is pretty simple: we have to win all the games to progress to the semi-finals. No questions, four games, we play each 100 per cent and that should be good. But it's easier said than done."

On the popular support since the beginning of the EHF EURO:
"So far it has been amazing. The two games in Berlin were great, the fans pushed us all the way through, and here in the LANXESS Arena, there will be even more. I know from my experience that when the Cologne fans push you, it can make a big, big difference.

“Today, people cheered for us at the station, there was this march when we arrived, it's a really great feeling, everybody is really behind us."

On his relationship with the Icelandic players from SC Magdeburg in the past few days:
"To be honest, we have not talked. In such a tournament, you only think about yourself, the team and you try to cut the noise coming from outside. Of course, we will say hi tomorrow, exchange a few words, but that's it. We have remained fairly quiet."

On his SC Magdeburg teammates:
"They are three great guys, really. Janus [Smarason] is an incredible player, he only arrived this season but he is a great guy. Gisli [Kristjansson] is one of the most incredible players in the world, with a very strong one versus one, and Ómar [Ingi Magnusson] has proven a lot over the past seasons. We will need to help each other a lot in defence to stop them. They are, all of them, great players and very nice guys."


Guillaume Gille (FRA) - coach

On the travel day to Cologne:
“Today was a four-hour train journey. Taking the train is good for the planet, a little bit less for the players’ recovery, but that’s the plan for this competition, and we go for it happily. Some of the players slept, some others played cards or started their video for the game on Thursday.”

On the game against Croatia:
“We already had the occasion to see Croatia on video, and this team has been blowing warm and cold alternatively. They delivered an impressive performance against Spain but the rest was a little bit less convincing. But we expect them to be very good tomorrow. A game between France and Croatia is always something important, in the past, those were often games in which medals were decided.”

On the defence:
“Ludovic Fabregas, Luka Karabatic and Karl Konan delivered a very good performance in the game against Germany. Karl might be the newcomer, but he already played with us at the EURO 2022. He is a very good rotation for Ludovic, and he gives us the opportunity to adapt more to the opposing offence than we could do in the past.

“We have been very good in this area of the game since the beginning of the EURO, and that gave us the opportunity to score some fast breaks, especially against Macedonia. We want to keep using this asset in the future.”

Ludovic Fabregas (FRA) – line player

On the dynamics France had during the preliminary round:
“We’ll try to keep it going. This feels like the start of a new competition, even though we have played three matches already. We already have two points, which is great, but of course we need more.

“Croatia will be a tough opponent tomorrow, they dismantled Spain the other day. We played well against Germany but I have the feeling that we can still do even better. We have to take things from that game, make them even better but try to keep going in the same direction, overall.”

On the 2019 World Championship game against Croatia:
“We also played against them in the main round here in the LANXESS Arena, but we lost. We were going through a transition phase, with a lot of young players arriving in the team, while they seem to be in that phase now and we are more stabilised. I really hope we can make things go the other way tomorrow, but that won’t be easy.”

Nédim Rémili (FRA) – right back

On the preliminary round France played:
“I’m satisfied and we are all, as a team. The draw against Switzerland felt like a disaster, when you read the press, but I’ve been looking at the other results and all the results are surprising. Spain are already out, while they played the final in 2022.

“I have to say that I feel we are being judged toughly, as in the EURO, any team can beat any other on just one game. That’s what happened. And I’m sure we can take a lot from those three games we played already into the main round.”

On the next opponents, Croatia:
“They are a good mix between old and new players, we know a lot of them because they play in the best leagues in Europe and also in the [Machineseeker EHF] Champions League. There are some incredible players in there, like Luka Cindric, Igor Karacic, to name a few. It feels like they are in a bit of transition, but the mix is working fine. We really have to be at our best if we want to beat them.”

Latest news

More News