History written with Nantes but De Paula wants more
History is the word on everybody’s lips when talking about Nantes Atlantique Handball at the moment.
The French side reached a semi-final in a European competition for the first time this season and with it a ticket to the first edition of the EHF Finals Women, which takes places on Saturday and Sunday in Baia Bare, Romania.
But the players, led by former EHF FINAL4 contender Guillaume Saurina, also added a French Cup final to their agenda, making the end of this season the most exciting in the young club’s history.
“This is something none of us expected and we are all very excited. Now that we have qualified for the EHF Finals, we want even more,” claims Brazilian left back Bruna De Paula.
The 24-years-old joined the club just last summer, after four seasons playing for French rivals Fleury les Aubrais. But she did not waste any time adapting to her new club as her 54 goals in the European League show.
In the ranking of best scorers since the start of the group phase, De Paula shares second place with Amanda Kurtovic from already eliminated Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK with 46 goals, five behind leader Herning-Ikast Håndbold's Helene Fauske.
Whenever her team needed someone to take responsibility and lead the way to victory, De Paula was the one everyone turned to.
“This is why I came to Nantes, to have more responsibilities in a team with great players around me. I know that not everything lands on my back though, I am not the only one who can make the difference during games,” she says.
Nevertheless, on more than one occasion, she saved Nantes from defeat in the European League. Kastamonu, Lublin or the quarter-final return leg against Zvezda, her second-half performances, in which she shines brightest, have become famous across Europe.
“Our team has a great bench and we all manage to be kind of fresh at the end of the games. It might be an advantage when you are playing two games in two days, just like we will at the Finals,” adds De Paula.
With the Brazil national team, the 24-year-old has plenty of final tournament experience, including a couple of World Championships, but according to her, the excitement ahead of the EHF Finals Women is completely different.
“Every player wants to compete with her national team, it is a dream for everyone. But this time, it feels to me that the trophy is closer than it has ever been. We know we have to play our best in two games and that we can reach something great.”
Nantes are set to open the EHF FINALS against hosts CS Minaur Baia Mare on Saturday 8 May at 14:45 CEST, followed by the other semi-final between Siófok KC and Herning-Ikast Håndbold at 18:00 CEST.
The 3/4 placement match and the final are scheduled for Sunday 9 May.
The EHF Finals Women will be even more special for Bruna De Paula as she will leave Nantes next summer to join French powerhouse Metz.
She will not be the only important player to leave the club, as Blandine Dancette and Camille Ayglon-Saurina, two of the 2017 world champions with France, will also move in the summer.
For De Paula, the excitement around this weekend's tournament and the prospect of leaving make for an interesting mix.
“I want to leave Nantes with my head held high and say goodbye with a trophy. I know I have been part of the history of the club already, with us reaching the Finals, but it is not over yet. I want something even bigger than that.”
I want to leave Nantes with my head held high and say goodbye with a trophy. I know I have been part of the history of the club already, with us reaching the Finals, but it is not over yet. I want something even bigger than that.