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EHF European League

The diminutive back who stole the show

EHF / Adrian Costeiu

Six years ago, when Bruna De Paula was just 19 years old, she was selected in the Brazil national team for the IHF Women’s World Championship in Denmark. She only scored once in six matches, but there were still flashes of brilliance around her game.

Her potential was superb and she doubled down in the IHF Women’s Junior World Handball Championship the following year, in 2016, with a transfer to French outfit Fleury Loiret looming.

A diminutive back for the current handball paradigm, at 1.73m tall, De Paula confirmed her potential in four years at Fleury, being named the MVP of the French League in the 2019/20 season.

A move to Nantes Atlantique Handball was on the cards and it might just be the best decision De Paula has made in her career.

Starting handball when she was only 11 and moving to another city when she was 14, De Paula is now a household name in handball after helping Nantes to their first-ever international trophy, the EHF European League Women, with superb games throughout the season.

A dual threat left back, who can shoot, be dangerous while dribbling and dish superb assists to her teammates, De Paula scored a total of 68 goals this season — eight of which came in the qualification phase 3 against SCM Gloria Buzau, where Nantes took a narrow 44:43 aggregate win.

“I did not think about winning the trophy when we started in the qualification phase 3. It was just a dream for us to live these kind of moments. I thought that this would be a superb season for us, but I did not expect to go all the way. It is even better this way,” said the back after Sunday’s EHF European League final.

 

Were it not for De Paula, the French outfit might not have progressed to the EHF Finals Women, as the Brazilian never scored less than four goals in the nine games played in the EHF European League in 2021.

“She is a great player — one of the best right now. She helped us a lot. I am proud to be her coach. She is also a good person. Her transfer last summer really helped us establish ourselves as a great team in France and in Europe,” said Nantes coach Guillaume Saurina after the 36:31 win against Siófok KC in the final of the EHF European League Women, where De Paula scored six times.

With 14 goals scored over the weekend in Baia Mare, De Paula was deservedly named the MVP of the EHF Finals Women, despite not being the top scorer — an award snatched by teammate Nathalie Hagman.

“I was not thinking about individual awards. I was just focusing on winning the game and the trophy, with the individual trophies coming as a consequence of our play. I am happy to be one of the top scorers, but my only aim was the win the trophy with Nantes,” said de Paula after the final.

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Already a winner of the Pan American Championship, the Pan American Games and the North and South American Championship with Brazil, De Paula has now won her first-ever club trophy in style.

She might not have been the top scorer of the EHF European League, having scored one goal less than Herning-Ikast’s Norwegian back Helene Gigstad Fauske, but no player contributed more to their side than the diminutive Brazilian back this season.

This is why she attracted the interest of many European clubs this past season and will make the move to Metz Handball — a powerhouse that is likely to compete once again in the DELO EHF Champions League next season.

It seems the next logical step for such a brimming talent, who has stolen the show in many games, including in the French league. In the domestic competition, she scored 62 goals in 14 games to sit 11th on the top scorer standings — a superb achievement considering she is not on penalty duty.

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