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13.11.2011, 01:36
Balić wants to keep going
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World-class playmaker to share his thoughts about EHF EURO 2012.

»EHF Euro Events Channel »2012 Men's News
»
 

Balić wants to keep going

Hailed as a handball icon in his native Croatia and by fans throughout the world, Ivano Balić was named the IHF best male handball player of all time in 2010 after winning a haul of medals for his country.

At the age of 32 Balić is as enthusiastic as ever to keep going, as he revealed in an exclusive interview to several reporters, including the EHF correspondent, during last week’s Four Nations Cup in Serbia.

Croatia finished bottom in the four-team tournament, behind winners Hungary, the Czech Republic and hosts Serbia, but Balić drew a warm applause in all three venues during the tournament which was a dress rehearsal for January’s EHF EURO 2012.

He emphasized just how tough it will be to live up to expectations from fans at home in the European Championship, where 16 teams will be vying for the medals in four Serbian cities.

"We experimented with several options in the Four Nations Cup because the important thing is to be fully prepared for EHF EURO 2012," said Balić, who won the 2003 World Championship with Croatia, followed by the gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games.

Balić also steered his country to a runners-up finish in the 2005 and 2009 worlds, as well as in EHF EURO 2008 and 2010, having also captured the Spanish league title with Portland San Antonio in 2005.

"The opening Preliminary Round Group D match against Iceland will be crucial, as it could determine our trajectory in the European Championship. We will have exceptionally difficult rivals in the Main Round if we go through, so it is essential to carry two wins out of two into the second stage if possible. We are always considered one of the favourites in major events, the bar is always high and young players in the Croatian team will therefore be under a lot of pressure to win a medal. My job is to ease that pressure as much as I can," he added.

Although he is one of Croatia’s long-serving stalwarts, Balić still has no intention of retiring form international handball. "I want to keep playing for Croatia as long as possible but I will call it quits before I suffer the indignity of being the worst player on the court so that others shouldn’t have to carry my weight," the versatile playmaker said.

"Also, I have no plans to leave Zagreb because I have settled there and it is good to play in Croatia again after spending some time abroad. I wouldn’t know where to go really because I am not suited to the style of play in the German league. I enjoy working with young players in Zagreb and my main role is to help them develop," Balić stressed.

"We have a good team and although there always seems to be a piece missing to do well in the EHF VELUX Champions League, we are hoping to reach at least the quarter-finals this season. It helps that we are playing in the regional SEHA league because it is a perfect springboard for young players to improve and I am convinced it will produce many talents in the future. It is always a great feeling to play in front of appreciative capacity crowds, such as the one in Banja Luka the other day when we got a standing ovation from the home fans who previously supported the local team from the top of their lungs," Balić pointed out.

Asked by the EHF if he fancied a Serbia vs. Croatia final in EHF EURO 2012, Balić said: "Croatia in the final – that would be fantastic and it really wouldn’t matter who we played against, but Serbia should have no problems in reaching the semi-finals on their own turf, backed by a passionate home crowd."

Further information

Download the Official EHF EURO 2012 Playing Schedule (pdf)

Buy your EHF EURO 2012 tickets HERE.

Ticketing is managed by the Serbian Organising Committees. Should you need further assistance for buying your tickets, please contact via email: tickets@rss.org.rs

Find more information on the tournament on the official website www.ehf-euro.com/SRB2012/

Join the growing community of fans of the event on Facebook www.facebook.com/SRB2012


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic
 
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