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13.11.2016, 12:37
Penezic: “No one is unbeatable“
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INTERVIEW: Speaking on her birthday, Croatia captain Andrea Penezic looks forward to leading the new generation to the Women's EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden as the team returns to the international stage for the first time since their disappointing EHF EURO 2014
 

Penezic: “No one is unbeatable“

Andrea Penezic is without a doubt the biggest Croatian star in women's handball. This Sunday (13 November) she turns 31, and as she looks back on her handball career there are many reasons to be proud and happy.

Penezic has been voted best Croatian handball player seven times – something no one else in history has done.

But there are still a few things missing: a medal with the national team and a Women's EHF Champions League title.

This is Penezic's third season in Vardar, and she has already won two bronze medals in a row at the Women's EHF FINAL4 in Budapest. In the 2014/2015 season, she was the top scorer of the competition together with Cristina Neagu, scoring 102 goals.

When it comes to the national team, Penezic's biggest achievement with Croatia is reaching the quarter-finals at both the World Championship 2011 in Brazil and the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

A big result was therefore expected when Croatia hosted the EHF EURO 2014 together with Hungary, but the Croatians failed to qualify for the main round. That result signalled the end of the previous generation, and now new players are coming to big stage.

Penezic is one of the oldest and most experienced in the team, and will lead Croatia at the EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden where they hope to achieve a good result.

ehf-euro.com: How do you rate Vardar's chances in the Women's EHF Champions League this year?
Andrea Penezic: I think this year's draw was on our side because our Group B is not that bad compared to Group C with Györ, Bucharest and Rostov-Don. Generally speaking, there is no easy group because today everyone can win.

We had a bad start in the first round at home against FTC [27:27] and we cannot have any more slips. We have only two matches left until the end of the group phase. We need to win both of those and we are completely focused on that.

ehf-euro.com: At the very beginning of the season Vardar changed coach, with long-term head coach Indira Kastratovic departing. How is it to work with David Davis now as head coach?
Andrea Penezic: Switching coaches is always a big change for any team because it is not easy when you have to adapt to new things and change the way you play. However, David Davis is our new-old coach, so we were already familiar with his coaching style and we adapted really fast. Of course, we can't really adapt to a new playing system over night but I think we are on a good path to do that.

ehf-euro.com: Vardar had a good start in the Women's EHF Champions League and currently hold first place in Group B. What are the team's ambitions for this season?
Andrea Penezic: Like every season our goals are set really high. That is not unusual when you see player roster Vardar has. [Last season was the] third season in a row we won the bronze medal and I cannot say that is not success, but we are not satisfied with that. I think this team can do better and needs to be better.

ehf-euro.com: Croatia is returning to the international stage for the first time since the EHF EURO 2014, after missing the World Championship in Denmark last year. What does playing on the big stage mean to the Croatian national team?
Andrea Penezic: The EHF EURO 2014 in Croatia was a complete failure for us. That was a big disappointment for us and we did not manage to qualify for Denmark. A change of generations happened overnight and we felt it. The continuity of playing on the big stage is very important for any national team, especially ours since it is very young. The EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden will be a great chance for young players to prove themselves and gain valuable experience.

ehf-euro.com: Croatia will play in Group D in Helsingborg. What do you think about your opponents?

Andrea Penezic: There is little to say as we got the so-called 'group of death'. Russia won gold at the Olympic Games in Rio, Romania took bronze at the World Championship in Denmark, Norway won everything there is to win. There is nothing more to say besides it is going to be extremely difficult, but you never know with Croatia. Maybe we can surprise someone.

ehf-euro.com: You are also Croatian team captain. Is that role hard for you or you feel honoured to be captain?
Andrea Penezic: Of course for me it is a huge honour to be team captain of the Croatian national team. I am among the oldest and most experienced players in the team. That also means I have bigger responsibilities. The girls know that I am always there for them if the need anything.

ehf-euro.com: Croatia now has a really young team strengthened with a few experienced players. What do you think of the team's chances in Sweden?
Andrea Penezic: Our group is really tough but we are going to give our best to go through to the main round. No one is unbeatable and we will not give up.

ehf-euro.com: Who do you think is the biggest favourite to win the EHF EURO 2016?
Andrea Penezic: There are always a few teams that can win medals with a few surprises. Norway, France, Spain, Romania, hosts Sweden…but we will see very soon who will be the winner.


TEXT: Jelena Bagaric / cg / ts
 
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