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25.11.2014, 11:16
Croatia seek EHF EURO glory
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FEATURE: Croatia’s women’s national team is brimming with confidence ahead the Women's EHF EURO 2014, where they will attempt to fight for a medal boosted by the support of the home crowd
 

Croatia seek EHF EURO glory

EHF EURO 2014 co-hosts Croatia begin their sixth consecutive European Championship appearance in Varazdin alongside Group C rivals Sweden, Germany and Netherlands.

The tournament marks an important occasion for Croatia, where women’s handball has been overshadowed by the excellent results of the men’s national team for the past decade.

Twenty years after their first EHF EURO appearance, everyone associated with the Croatian women’s team is unequivocal about surpassing team’s best result – finishing 5th at the Women’s EHF EURO 1994, by securing a semi-final berth at the EHF EURO 2014.

"The whole country expects a medal, and we need to do our utmost as hosts to win it. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to popularise women’s handball in Croatia," admits Croatia coach Vladimir Canjuga, before revealing his goals.

"The semi-final is a realistic goal for us. We would then have two opportunities to fight for the medal, and an easier path to qualify for the Olympic games," Canjuga added confidently.  

The Croatian coach also revealed his preparation plans, which will include a full-strength friendly game against Montenegro on 29 November in front of an already sold-out venue in Varazdin.

"My colleague (Montenegro head coach Dragan) Adzic and I have already agreed to go out with full-strength and play our best line-ups, as a final test before the EURO," Canjuga was quoted on the Croatian federation website.

Two sides of the same coin

Hopes of the side selected by Vladimir Canjuga lie squarely on the shoulders of Andrea Penezic, who will be backed to provide silverware-worthy performances in front of the home crowd.

The sharpshooting left back will be the focal point of her team’s attack, but the in-form players from Lokomotiva Zagreb and Podravka Vegeta will also be relishing a chance to shine, given their Women’s EHF Champions League Group Matches experience this season.

The prime example of that would be the experienced centre back Miranda Tatari, who is playing one of her best seasons at the age of 31, motivated by Podravka’s EHF Champions League berth and the euphoria surrounding Croatia prior to the EHF EURO.

It is then no wonder Canjuga named a total of 11 players from the two domestic teams in his Croatia squad, where the vast majority of players (16 out of 18 selected) are playing in the Women’s EHF Champions League this season.

But it just might turn out to be two sides of the same coin for the Croatian coach.

"The players have an opportunity to test themselves on a higher level in the Champions League, taking vast experience from each game, but I fear fatigue might take its toll. It will take a lot of know-how from us to get them prepared for the EURO," says Vladimir Canjuga.

First step is always the hardest

Croatia approaches the EURO with a clean bill of health, as all of their players are fit and ready to step on the court, confident their good run of form and support of the home crowd will secure them the ticket to the final weekend in Budapest.

Croatia will look to break the ice from early on, and gain momentum in the tournament, starting from the first match against Sweden on 8 December.

"We play our first match against Sweden, and we need to open that game well. Really well in fact, as everything comes much easier after you win your first game," said centre back Sonja Basic.

The Croatian women’s national team for the Women’s EHF EURO 2014:

Goalkeepers: Jelena Grubisic (Györi Audi ETO KC), Marta Zderic (Buducnost), Ivana Jelcic (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb)

Wing players: Maja Sokac (WHC Vardar SCBT), Tea Grubisic (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb), Aneta Benko (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb), Anita Gace (Dinamo-Sinara)

Back court players: Andrea Penezic (WHC Vardar SCBT), Camila Micijevic (HC Zamet), Miranda Tatari (HC Podravka Vegeta), Maja Koznjak (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb), Kristina Elez (HC Podravka Vegeta), Sonja Basic (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb), Zana Maric (Bietigheim), Lidija Horvat (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb)

Line players: Katarina Jezic (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb), Vesna Milanovic-Litre (Györi Audi TO KC), Dragica Dzono (HC Podravka Vegeta)


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ts
 
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