Playing alongside and opposite Germans is a familiar thing for Spanish player Joan Canellas. The left back played for German clubs for three years between 2013 and 2016, first for HSV Hamburg, then for THW Kiel.
Now Canellas will face some well-known faces in the second match of EHF EURO 2020 group C in Trondheim, when the defending champions duel with their predecessors Germany.
After winning the VELUX EHF Champions League with Vardar in 2017, the top scorer of the EHF EURO 2014 and 2013 world champion now plays for Pick Szeged, but still he has a good connection with Germany and his former teammates.
Ahead of Saturday’s match, the 33-year-old spoke to ehf-euro.com about the significance of the duel and a potential end to his international career – but not before adding more silverware to his cabinet.
ehf-euro.com: You beat Latvia comfortably, but initially it looked quite shaky – how do you rate your opener at the EHF EURO 2020?
Joan Canellas: It is always hard to start in a tournament, especially when you face a team you do not know. Maybe it would have been better to start against Germany, because then our concentration would have been at a higher level. But finally, we found our style of playing after 15 minutes and took the points. That is what counts, nothing else.
ehf-euro.com: At EHF EURO 2014 Spain won bronze, in 2016 it was silver and in 2018 you won the first ever EHF EURO gold – what comes next?
Joan Canellas: I don’t know really. Two years ago it was easy, because we went to Croatia to win gold. Now we came here to fight for the semi-finals, so we have to take a point – or better, two – from the match against Germany.
ehf-euro.com: How do you rate the current German team?
Joan Canellas: They can count on top players, even though some stars are injured. If we want to win, we have to show a great fighting spirit. We know what we have to do. I hope that we can make it thanks to our experience. All our previous matches against Germany were very tight and decided in the last minutes, so I guess that little things will be crucial.
ehf-euro.com: The German players say Spain are the favourites, do you agree?
Joan Canellas: Thanks for the flowers! It sounds good to be the favourite, but for me there is no favourite, it is 50:50 as usual. Last year we lost, two years ago we won, so I do not care if there's a favourite, just play!
ehf-euro.com: You have many experienced players in your squad, what is the motivation to continue in the national team?
Joan Canellas: We always want to win, and this time there is a chance to go straight to the Olympic Games, this is our motivation. Four years ago, we failed in the qualification for Rio, so now we are all eager to go to Tokyo, as for some of us this might be the last tournament with the national team. This is our goal, and as we are professional sportsmen you need to have the highest goals.
We still have seven or eight players from the World Championship 2013 in our squad, when we won gold, and even 12 players from the 2016 final defeat against Germany at the EHF EURO in Poland, so we have some continuity. And our motivation is still at the highest level. For a match against Germany, you do not need special motivation. We’re looking forward to the match.
ehf-euro.com: You have played in Hamburg and Kiel, you know all the German players, is there someone you’re really looking forward to meet again here?
Joan Canellas: At a club level, I only played with two of the current German players – Patrick Wiencek in Kiel and Johannes Bitter in Hamburg – and it’s nice to talk to them here in Trondheim. Mainly I was so happy to see Bitter, who I haven’t seen for four or five years. And it’s always good to speak German, as my German language skills get weaker and weaker every year.
ehf-euro.com: German goalkeeper Andreas Wolff plays in Kielce with four of your Spanish teammates – who has the advantage from knowing so much about each other?
Joan Canellas: They know him very well and I hope that they know where to shoot, and that they let me know how I should shoot. But on the other hand, Andy is a world class goalkeeper. If he saves all of our shots, it was his advantage, if not, it was our advantage.