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13.09.2012, 18:15
Podravka will improve in time for new season
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Coach confident Croatian champions will do well in the European premier club competition
 

Podravka will improve in time for Champions League

Podravka Vegeta are pressed for time to shape up and find their form ahead of the upcoming season but their coach Neven Hrupec expressed confidence the Croatian champions will hit top gear when they need to, despite a poor run in pre-season friendlies, albeit against strong rivals.

Podravka, who have won the Croatian league title a record 19 times to go with 18 national cups, finished bottom in a four-team tournament after losing to defending European champions Budućnost Podgorica, Slovenia’s Krim Mercator and Hypo Niederösterreich. A win and a loss to Hypo’s second team was also hardly reassuring but Hrupec said he was not alarmed by the early setbacks, adding that there was enough time for improvement.

“We will use the matches in the regional league to hit top form for games in the EHF Champions League and they should be a good test for Europe’s premier club competition, which remains our priority and is firmly in the focus of our attention,” Hrupec told Croatian media.

“We are not too disappointed over the patchy results because we have had to deal with several injuries. The girls who played for Croatia in the Olympics needed time to recuperate from their exertions in London and it is not unexpected that they are bit behind in preparations for the upcoming season,” he said.

Podravka was beaten by Budućnost 26:23 after trailing 17:11 at halftime. They then suffered a 31:27 defeat by Krim Mercator after a 19:12 halftime deficit and finally succumbed 31:30 to Hypo after a 14:12 halftime lead. Hrupec assessed where his team needed to improve in order to be on top of their game in time for their Champions League clashes with Krim, last season’s runners-up Györi Audi ETO and the qualifier.  

“We were poor defensively against Budućnost and Krim while we performed well against Hypo. We didn’t use all our resources but I am pleased with the performances of our national team players Miranda Tatari and Vesna Milanović-Litre, bearing in mind that they’ve had a tough season capped by the London Olympics. Anita Gaće was out with a shoulder injury and that was a bit unfortunate. The goalkeepers underperformed but that’s hardly surprising, given the intensity of the build-up they had,” Hrupec pointed out.

Krim Mercator, whose star player is Croatia’s inspirational middle back Andrea Penezić, will clash with Podravka in the Champions League group stage and Hrupec said he believed their doubleheader would produce a very different outcome to the one in the recent tournament, where the Slovenian outfit comfortably came out on top.

“I look at this at tournament as part of our build-up for next season and I am sure we will be able to overpower Krim when it matters. We are not afraid of any opposition in the Champions League and the start of the competition can’t come soon enough for me and my players,” he said.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević/br
 
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