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09.03.2015, 10:28
Babic: "I know what the people expect from me"
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INTERVIEW: His nomination to the helm of Croatia's men's national team is fairly fresh, but Zeljko Babic knows that the pressure is already there and that ambitions run high
 

Babic: "I know what the people expect from me"

Just about two weeks have passed since Zeljko Babic learned that he will be the next head coach of Croatia’s men’s national team.

His nomination followed former head coach Slavko Goluza’s resignation after the World Championship 2015 at which Croatia failed to reach the semi-finals.

The 43-year-old Babic, who coaches Belarusian side Meshkov Brest on club level, had been Goluza’s assistant before moving to Brest and to a certain extent he is still coming to terms with the fact that it is him who succeeded Goluza.

"I’m excited and very happy because of the chance the Croatian Handball Federation gave me," he tells ehf-euro.com.

"I’m aware that the responsibility is huge. I didn't expect this. I wished to sit on that bench one day, but nobody could predict that will happen so fast."

Babic’s two closest allies will be two Croatian living handball legends. His assistant will be former national team captain Petar Metlicic, while Ivano Balic will become the national team’s sports director once he has finished the season at German Bundesliga side HSG Wetzlar.

"I have played together with Ivano, but we’ve also had a coach-player relationship back at the World Championship 2009 when I was his and and Pero’s (Petar Metlic) personal coach.

"It was hard to work with them. I was a beginner and they were world-class stars, but from the very beginning I showed a dose of craziness to work in that kind of situation.

"We did a good job at the end. They are big athletes, very nice as persons, and I strongly believe that our partnership will be successful. I believe that we will convey our positive spirit to our players, the media and the whole handball community. I’m looking forward for that."

New role: Ivano Balic will become the Croatian national team's sports director

Quality players, ambitious goals

For Babic there are several reasons why Croatia’s national team only came sixth at the World Championship in Qatar, their worst placement since the EHF EURO 2002 in Sweden.

He refers in particular to the quarter-final against Poland which Croatia lost 22:24.

"We played too calm instead of going for a fast approach. We have the players who are able to lead a strong attack. I also speak about counter attacks and extended counter attacks.

“Our defence is good. I will try to pay attention and improve some more details, but attack is something on which we have to focus. We have to put pressure on our opponent for the entire 60 minutes."

Babic also hints that he might bring back players who have not played a larger role in the national team, such as line player Renato Sulic and goalkeeper Marin Sego.

"I will try to pick all the best players that can play for Croatia. But only guys who are ready to give 100 per cent will don the national jersey. The quality is the most important."

Furthermore the new head coach vows to look at the younger generations, the players born in 1992 and younger, and to integrate them as quickly as possible.

"We will nominate a few young guys who will be preparing with the team with a focus on the Men's EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia."

The Croatian Handball Federation to date has not set any goals yet, but Zeljko Babic has no doubt that the highest results will be demanded from him.

"It is clear that Croatia will have the highest goals. Let's put this as definition. I’m aware where I came to and what people expect from me and my squad.

"Croatia got used to great results and Croatia will keep winning."

The 43-year-old is not too sure yet whether his new job and his old one, the head coach position at Meshkov Brest, will agree with each other.

"Both sides said the decision is on me to decide what’s best for me. I have a contract offer at Brest for two more years. I have begun to prepare the EHF EURO Qualification matches against Norway (29 April and 3 May) alongside my duties in Brest.

"If I realise that I can't do both things, I will pack my things and go back to Croatia. If I decide to stay, I will prolong my contract for next season, and then start extending it every single year. However, I will always give my best for Croatia."


TEXT: Zika Bogdanovic / ts
 
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