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27.03.2013, 17:29
Croatia return to the Zagreb Arena
«Go back »Print Version


International handball comes back to the 2009 World Championship venue after a four year absence
 

Croatia return to the Zagreb Arena

1 February 2009 was the last time Croatia played in the Zagreb arena. That game was the final of the 2009 World Championship and it ended in a 24:19 defeat for Croatia against France.

Since that game, Croatia have played many matches throughout the country, but not in Zagreb.

The arena has since hosted many VELUX EHF Champions League matches by RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb.

After four years away, Croatia will return to international action in Zagreb on 6 April against Hungary in the fourth round of qualification for the EHF EURO 2014.

“We're all very excited and looking forward to play in Arena Zagreb again after such a long period.

“My team and I expect to see it sold out again like it was at all our matches four years ago.

“I know that 15,000 fans can create an excellent atmosphere, we remember the World Championship.

“Our fans will do it again and we'll pay them back with great match. My team has a great synergy with fans wherever we play, and returning to Arena is another big motivation,” coach Slavko Goluža said.

Team captain Igor Vori shares his enthusiasm.

“I'm also hoping to see the Arena sold out. We all remember the phenomenal atmosphere four years ago.

“It will be hard to do it again, back in those days we had big euphoria in whole country and we played final match against France – our greatest rivals and opponents.”

“Returning to the Arena feels great, it'll be big advantage for us. But I hope we'll write the best invitation to our fans in first match in Veszprem,” said the line player.

The Croatian federation marketing director, Silvio Njirić, announced hours of fun for all fans and visitors in the build-up. A four hour programme before the match will include various promotions of handball inside Zagreb Arena: mini-handball, beach handball, summer camp for young talented players, as well as sponsors corners, prize-winning games and music.

“The level of activities will be higher than during the World Championship. We want to spend a great handball day with our fans.” Njirić said.
Slavko Goluža nominated squad with 16 players for two matches against Hungary (Veszprem, 4 April 20:30 local time and Zagreb 6 April 18:30 local time).

There are some changes regarding team that won the bronze medal at the World Championship in Spain.

“We are happy that we have Blaženko Lacković and Denis Buntić with us again after recovering from injuries.

“Nikola Špelić (RK Maribor Branik), Jerko Matulić (RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb) and Mate Šunjić (RK NEXE Našice) deserved nominations for playing in great form in their clubs lately,” explained Goluža.

“We'll have a very tough match in the Veszprem Arena. I've played there for 2 years, Veszprem is handball city and the crowd is great, I have a lot of emotions about that city and people.

“But we want to have a good match, and we hope for good result. Our goal is that after this round of qualifications we secure our place in Denmark so we could give opportunity to more young players in the last 2 matches,” concluded Goluža.

Croatia won three consecutive bronze medals at last three major handball events (Serbia, London, Spain).

But some handball fans in Croatia are convinced that their favourite team deserved a little bit more and the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark appears to be a great opportunity to go one step further than the previous attempts.

“The most important thing is to go step by step, game by game. There is a lot of time until Denmark and our first goal is to secure a place there.

“We have a lot of youngsters, some of them were presented in Spain, and it was good because they've felt the atmosphere of a big competition, it was their step up to top handball.

“Now we have to beat Hungary so they can have another opportunity in the last two matches of the group,” team captain Igor Vori said.

Slavko Goluža has once again left out Ivano Balić. After missing Spain, Balic is set to miss another team event as Croatia appears to slowly entering into the “post-Ivano” era.

Croatian squad for EHF EURO 2014 qualifiers against Hungary:

Goalkeeper: Mirko Alilović (MKB Veszprem KC), Mate Šunjić (RK NEXE Našice)

Left wing: Ivan Ninčević (Füchse Berlin), Lovro Šprem (RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb)

Right wing: Zlatko Horvat (RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb), Jerko Matulić (RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb)

Left back: Blaženko Lacković (HSV Hamburg), Jakov Gojun (BM Atletico Madrid), Damir Bičanić (Chambery Savoie Handball), Nikola Špelić (RK Maribor Branik)

Centre back: Domagoj Duvnjak (HSV Hamburg), Drago Vuković (TuS N-Lübbecke)

Right back: Marko Kopljar (PSG Paris), Denis Buntić (KS Vive Targi Kielce)

Line player: Igor Vori (HSV Hamburg), Željko Musa (KS Vive Targi Kielce)


TEXT: Zlatko Skrinjar / cor
 
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