Cañellas: “We need this boost of energy from the stands”
It was one of the biggest transfer news in the history of the Swiss league when Kadetten Schaffhausen announced the signing of Joan Cañellas last summer.
Cañellas arrived with an incredible CV: World champion and two-time EHF EURO champion with Spain, EHF EURO 2014 top scorer, EHF Champions League winner with Vardar Skopje in 2017 and stints with the likes of Barça, Ciudad Real, THW Kiel and HSV. After three seasons at Szeged in Hungary, the 35-year-old opened a new chapter in his career with a surprise move to Switzerland.
“Some have asked me why I went to Switzerland but when I look back, this decision to join Kadetten was absolutely right for me and my family. We feel very well and whoever thinks the Swiss league is not that hard to play, is wrong, we have only ten teams, but we face all of them in three periods of the season, and we have as many matches as I had in the German Bundesliga.
“Overall, I am very satisfied with the club and the country and it was easy to adapt for me as most Swiss teams play a kind of German handball style, though the level is a bit lower,” Canellas says about his new life. Currently, Kadetten play the quarter-finals of the Swiss league against Bern and started with a victory at home (38:28) and a close away defeat (33:32).
On Tuesday, Cañellas hopes for another surprise of his side in the EHF European League, facing Wisla Plock on Tuesday (18:45 CEST, live on EHFTV) in the first leg of the quarter-finals, Kadetten’s first international quarter-final since 2010.
“If the arena will be full and with the boost of this atmosphere, we have the fate in our hands. Everything is possible, though Plock are definitely the favourites.”
Kadetten were fortunate in the Last 16, eliminating Swedish champions IK Sävehof on the away goals rule, losing 34:28 was enough after winning the home match 32:26.
“Sävehof have a high quality in their squad, though their name is not as big as Nantes, Berlin or Magdeburg. Now, our whole club will have a brand new experience ahead as we have the chance to qualify for the EHF Finals.”
Relishing the underdog role
By looking at the remaining teams still in the competition, Cañellas is sure that “all of them would play a great role in the Champions League too. Since the number of participants in the Champions League was reduced, the quality in the European League rose extremely.
“This competition is strong and composed only of top teams. We had the pressure to make it to the group phase, as we had to start in the first qualification round, then our ambitions grew and we wanted to make it to the Last 16. Now we are even in the quarter-finals, which means a huge success for the whole club.”
For Cañellas, Plock represent the “Champions League top class”, as “their squad is composed almost only by national team players from strong countries. They have a really good coach and they are even one of the favourites for winning the trophy in the end together with Magdeburg, Nantes and Benfica.”
But which result would be a perfect one after the first leg for the Spanish left back?
“We saw against Sävehof that even a six-goal win does not guarantee that you are already through to the next round. I expect a close match, and even a defeat by one goal would enable us to turn it around at Plock. I hope for a result, with which we can continue dreaming of the ticket for the final tournament. And I am sure another six-goal win is not that realistic against Plock. But our major advantage compared to Wisla is that we are not under pressure.”
Having 62 goals on his tally so far, Cañellas is the second-best Kadetten scorer in the European League below Samuel Zehnder (91) but his role is not only defined by scoring.
“Thanks to my experience, I shall guide our team, mainly in the European League. The other players do not have this international experience at club or national team level. And I shall shift the whole team. We are the underdogs from now on, but handball history in club competitions has proved that sometimes the underdogs are the winners. Therefore, we need this boost of energy from the stands to compensate for our lack of experience,” concludes Joan Cañellas.