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1 month ago - 8/29/2019

Brest want to break through Last 16 barrier

HC Meskhov Brest have made it to the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16 for four straight years - and this is the minimal goal for the Belarusian champions again in the new season.

However, with a changed squad the club is looking for more, so reaching the quarter-final for the first time is the next step for ambitious Brest.

Three questions ahead of the new season:

- Can the team finally reach the quarter-final?

Brest chairman Alexander Meshkov has regularly declared ambitious goals, yet in reality Brest have stuck at the same level. During the last four seasons, the team progressed to the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16, but were unable to make any further steps.

In summer, the Belarusian champions have made a lot of changes in the squad with the ambition to break the ground and finally reach the quarter-final. However, Brest play in the competitive Group B so their primary concern is to progress at all.

“Our goal for the season is the same as last year. In the Champions League, the Last 16 is our minimum, and reaching the quarter-final is our objective. However, it would be cool to proceed even further than that,” says captain Ivan Pesic.

- Will Raul Alonso succeed as head coach?

The Spaniard arrived in Brest as an assistant coach to Manolo Cadenas in 2018, but after the latter stepped down in April, Alonso took over. As an interim coach, he led the team to the Belarus championship title and was named a permanent head coach in summer. In the past, the 40-year-old has worked as an assistant to Alfred Gislason at THW Kiel and won many titles with the German powerhouse. Besides, he coached Austria’ Handball Tirol, so his international experience should help him succeed at Brest.

- What will William Accambray add to the team?

With his titles of European, world and Olympic champion, the 31-year-old Frenchman is a player with the most accolades in Brest’s history. For injuries or other reasons, the former player of Montpellier, PSG, Veszprém and Celje has not shown his best game during the last couple of seasons. Now he wants to relaunch his career in Belarus, while Brest hope that a player of his calibre will help the team to climb up to the next level.

Under the spotlight: Ivan Pesic

The 30-year-old goalkeeper is already a veteran at Brest, going into his seventh season with the club. However, this season is special for the Croatian goalkeeper, as he was elected the team captain. During his years in the Belarusian outfit, Pesic has matured a lot and turned into a key figure of the team, and his brilliant saves have contributed to a lot to Meshkov’s wins.

Self-esteem

“We were drawn into a strong group, and the team face a tough but interesting challenge. We want to do better than last season, but we have about 70 games in all competitions, so it’s important to stay fit. If the players avoid injuries, we will reach our goals, as our team has a lot of quality,” coach Raul Alonso says.

Fun fact

Bosnian right back Marko Panic, a new arrival at Brest, is a rare kind of player who can shoot equally well with both hands. The 28-year old, who arrived from KS Azoty-Pulawy in Poland, is naturally right-handed, but he learned to shoot with his left hand at the age of 12 after breaking a finger of his right hand.

What the numbers say

Before this season, Brest have played 96 games in the VELUX EHF Champions League, so the match against Motor in October will be their 100th game in the continental top flight.

HC Meshkov Brest (BLR)

Qualified for VELUX EHF Champions League 2019/20: Belarusian champions

Newcomers: William Accambray (Telekom Veszprem), Nemanja Obradovic (Wisla Plock), Jaka Malus (RK Celje), Marko Panic (KS Azoty-Pulawy), Nikita Vailupov (SKA Minsk), Branko Kankaras (Istres Provence Handball), Daniel Andrejew (Wilhelmshavener HV).

Left the club: Vitali Charapenka (retired), Pavel Horak (THW Kiel), Petar Dordic (S.L.Benfica), Sime Ivic (HC Erlangen), Siarhei Shylovich (SKA Minsk), Dzianis Rutenka (SKA Minsk), Vid Poteko (RK Celje), Andrei Yashchanka (HC Beyer), Pavel Darafeyeu (Saint Petersburg HC).

Head coach: Raul Alonso (since 2019)

Team captain: Ivan Pesic

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2019/20 season): 11
Last 16 (4): 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19
Group Phase (5): 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2014/15
Qualification (1): 2008/09

Other EC records:

Cup Winners' Cup:
Quarter-final: 2011/12

SEHA League:
Final 2014, 2015

Belarusian league:
11 titles (2004-08, 2014-19)

Belarusian cup:
11 titles (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014-18)

Author: Sergey Nikolaev / ew