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24.03.2015, 10:19
Mrden vows to give Croatia "warrior spirit"
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INTERVIEW: With the next challenges already looming after a disappointing Women's EHF EURO 2014, Goran Mrden takes on his new job as Croatia's women's head coach with verve
 

Mrden vows to give Croatia "warrior spirit"

Following a disappointing performance at the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 that saw Croatia exiting the tournament after the preliminary round, head coach Vladimir Canjuga resigned and the Croatian Handball Federation was forced to find a successor.

January 2015 passed and almost all February as well before the federation’s board announced that experienced HC Podravka Vegeta coach Goran Mrden was chosen to take the women’s national team to new challenges.

"This is a defining moment of my career. I’m happy, proud and honoured to have been given this opportunity," the 52-year old Mrden has now told eurohandball.com after he had been together with the team for the first time.

Mrden is no stranger to coaching on a national team level. He was a youth national team coach for Croatia, and an assistant to Zdenko Kordi in the senior national team about ten years ago.

It can arguably be said that the experience he acquired back when today’s senior players were only youngsters, as well as his Women’s EHF Champions League experience with Podravka, will serve him well in his new role.

New chapter

Taking over a turbulent Croatian team alongside a stable, successful club career at Podravka seemed a risky business for the experienced Mrden, but the Virovitica-born coach did not think twice about the decision.

"It really is a dream come true for me and one of the greatest acknowledgements I have received so far. I didn’t think twice about accepting the job, but was fully aware of what comes along with it.

"It’s hard not to look back at the EURO as a missed opportunity. The media, the expectations created an atmosphere in which the semi-final looked a certainty.

"Players succumbed to the pressure and failed to deliver at even their basic assignments. It all fell apart," says Mrden.

"The situation isn’t ideal, but what is? There is no such thing as the right time for the national team.

"We need to turn the page and start a new chapter in Croatian handball," admits the experienced coach.

Setting a foundation

It will be a long journey for women’s handball in Croatia to get out of the shade of their men’s counterparts, and the next challenge is already looming with the World Championship Play-offs against Sweden scheduled for June.

"Our work starts in earnest at the World Championship qualification matches. It is the priority No.1.

"Setting a solid foundation is of utmost importance for us now.  We need to build a system with what we have right now and develop. It’s difficult to make significant changes in such a short notice.

"We have a team, we have the quality. Most of our players play at the top clubs - such is their experience and skill.

"We need to transfer some assignments from Andrea Penezic onto her teammates, that way she can concentrate on doing what she does best. We have the quality to solve every problem in the roster with our rotation.

"Fresh faces are also needed. This generation has been around for some time now, and we need to slowly introduce younger players to the team. The youngsters will improve our running, and bring some much-needed energy," summarises Mrden.

Warrior spirit

It was not that hard for the federation to Goran Mrden as the right man for the job.

Podravka Koprivnica was the second Croatian team alongside Lokomotiva Zagreb, to find its way into the Women’s EHF Champions League Group Matches – a success that was also due to the experienced coach’s skills.

"When I watch a handball match, I can clearly see the influence of the coach. You can see it being so apparent. That is what I’m trying to accomplish with Croatia – I want to instil a new way of thinking onto this team.

"I want my Croatia team to show their warrior spirit. I want them to play with desire and dedication.

"My desire is to bring the level of performance of the national team to the highest stage we have reached at Podravka. We need to bring the best out of everyone in order to succeed.

"But first, we have to be aware no success comes over night. We have to go back to the basics, and build step by step. There is no room for complacency.

"Ambition is best proved on the court. We must not get ahead of ourselves, and take anything for granted," concludes Mrden.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ts
 
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