She is the team captain, the top scorer and kind of a life insurance for the Slovenian team: Ana Gros.
The 29-year-old right back is the current top scorer of the DELO EHF Champions League, with 67 goals in nine matches for her club Brest Bretagne.
On Sunday, Gros will play against many well-known faces from the French league and her former club Metz Handball, when Slovenia meets France in Group A of the EHF EURO 2020.
In their opener, Slovenia were defeated by hosts Denmark in this tough group, in which Gros & co will duel Montenegro in the closing match.
ehf-euro.com: In the first match you faced Danish goalkeeper Sandra Toft, on Sunday there will be many players from Brest and Metz – is a duel with teammates special for you?
Ana Gros: At an event like an EHF EURO, it often occurs that you play against current or former teammates, and it is still special. But everyone knows that for 60 minutes there is a break in the friendship.
Against Denmark, Sandra had the clear advantage, as she knows me so well, it was a mind-game, and it always easier for the goalkeepers in those situations. Against France, it will be different, but of course I know many of them from playing in Metz and Brest.
ehf-euro.com: You’ve been playing in France since 2014, arriving from Germany and previously Györ. What makes France so special for you?
Ana Gros: Of course the fact that I can play Champions League in both clubs. But it is not only the sporting part of life.
I feel so good in France, whether we talk about Metz or Brest. I really could improve in a top club at Metz, then I got an offer from Brest, and the club is really ambitious, which was very important for me. The club in Brest is absolutely professional and perfectly structured, they take care of everything, I can fully focus on handball there. And life at the seaside is great – but to be honest, it rains much too often there.
ehf-euro.com: When it comes to top scorer lists, you are always on top, just like at the moment in the DELO EHF WOMEN’S Champions League. Is this part of your mentality and DNA?
Ana Gros: I am a shooter, this is my job and my role. I like to help my teams with scoring, but I also help my team with passes, as I like to play for the team. I try to do my best – and if my best is scoring, it is okay.
ehf-euro.com: Usually, Slovenia beat a top team in their opener of major events – this time you lost against Denmark, what had happened?
Ana Gros: We really did not play our best against Denmark, but you have to look at the circumstances. We hadn’t played a match for one year, no test match, nothing. Then we only had 10 days of preparation, but not a single training session with all players together. We had some injuries in our squad, so finally we could start working here in Denmark. And taking all this into account, we hope to improve in the upcoming two matches.
ehf-euro.com: You have to face France and Montenegro now – which task is easier?
Ana Gros: Neither of them, I would never call a match against those top teams an easy one. France belong to the best in the world, Montenegro fight like hell and have a really strong defence. So both matches will be anything but easy.
ehf-euro.com: Having this in mind, how do you rate your chances of proceeding to the main round?
Ana Gros: We have to fight twice. We know that none of the matches is easy, but we can beat any team, we’ve proved that in the last years. France definitely have the more balanced and wider bench, Montenegro might have individually some better players – but we know how to fight, and we will try to grab this chance.
ehf-euro.com: You are the team captain of a rejuvenated team with many young talents. Are you rather the role model, the boss or the general?
Ana Gros: I am playing for the national team for 13 or 14 years, so I am among the most experienced players on this team. I really like to help and support those young players, as I was young too, and received a lot of support from the older players.
For sure, the young players also have an impact on the team, for sure, they have their roles. I am not afraid of taking this responsibility, and I like to lead the team.
ehf-euro.com: Despite your career at club level, how important is playing for the national team for you?
Ana Gros: It makes me so proud to wear the national team jersey and sing the anthem. I have such great emotions when the anthem is played. Slovenia is a small country with a small number of players. So it means even more to represent a country like Slovenia at such an important tournament as the EHF EURO.