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26.09.2018, 22:20
Podravka want more after qualifying the hard way
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Women’s EHF Champions League Countdown: HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO). The small Croatian city with a long handball tradition is home to top flight handball again and the club have no plans on making it a short return to the big time
 

Podravka want more after qualifying the hard way

HC Podravka Vegeta have been missing from the Women’s EHF Champions League Group Matches since 2016. This season, with a new coach and significantly changed roster, Podravka are back among Europe’s elite.

Under the guidance of Olympic champion Zlatko Saracevic, who joined from PPD Zagreb, and boasted by several experienced newcomers, Podravka hope their involvement will go beyond the group matches.

Three question before the new season:

How important is it for Podravka to be back in the Women’s EHF Champions League?

Koprivnica is a small city in northern Croatia with a long handball tradition but having been missing from the Champions League for the last three years interest in the city has reduced.

But with a new team, new coach and participation in the group matches, Podravka wants to make handball once again the most important sport in the city. And it seems that they are already doing it.

During the qualification matches against Muratpasa Belediyesi SK and SCM Craiova, home arena Fran Galovic Hall was full, and fans were again interested in what Podravka can do on the European stage.

“The Women’s EHF Champions League is the elite club competition in Europe,” said Sports Director and former player Miranda Tatari Simunovic.

“Every club wants to be a part of it, but not everyone can. The added importance of the TV broadcasts which come from playing at this level is very important for all our sponsors, especially for our main sponsor Podravka.”

What are Podravka’s chances in Group C?

By winning the qualification tournament, Podravka Vegeta earned their place in Group C of the EHF Champions League where they will cross swords with champions Györi Audi ETO KC, Krim Mercator and Thüringer HC.  

“The group is very difficult because all teams have the same goal and that is to reach the Main Round. Gyori Audi ETO KC, Krim Mercator and Thuringer HC are all teams with a lot of experience.

“However, we are not afraid of anyone and we will enjoy playing against all of them,” explained team captain Dragica Dzono.

On their way to the desired main round they will certainly try to steal points from the Slovenian champions, against whom they played many times, and Thüringer HC. With the help of a full Fran Galovic hall in Koprivnica, anything is possible for Podravka.

What are Podravka’s goals for the season 2018/2019?

Podravka did not win both domestic trophies last season as Lokomotiva claimed the Croatian Cup, but Podravka did win the league for the 24th time.

Season 2018/19 is a fresh start for team led by Zlatko Saracevic. A significantly changed roster, a new coach and a place in the Women’s EHF Champions League marks a new start for the team. Ambitions are now even higher, with their sights set on a domestic double and a return to the main round in the Europe’s top flight for the first time in 10 years.

Self-esteem

Even though they have not been a part of the group matches for three years, Podravka have boosted their confidence after they managed to win the qualification tournament in front of their home crowd.

“At the beginning of the season, our main goal for the European scene was reaching the group matches. Now that we have done it we will not stop there, we will fight hard to reach the main round,” says Tatari Simunovic.

Under the spotlight: Natalia Chigirinova

Russian player Natalia Chigirinova already proved she is a big reinforcement for Saracevic’s team after joining from Astrakhanochka, her first time away from Russia after having played previously for only Lada Togliatti.

This 25-year old centre back was the key player in the qualification matches against Muratpasa Belediyesi and SCM Craiova, scoring 13 goals in the two matches and proving she can be the leader of the new Podravka team.

Fun facts

One of the most interesting facts about Podravka Vegeta this season is in regard to their coach Zlatko Saracevic. He is well known in men’s handball but Podravka Vegeta is his first women’s club.

He has coached many clubs and was assistant coach to Lino Cervar with the Croatian men’s national team. After being replaced by Cervar at PPD Zagreb at the club level, Saracevic decided it was time for a change and he has already had success with reaching the group matches.

What the numbers say

Podravka have participated in all but one edition of the EHF Champions League. This is going to be their 25th season in Europe’s top flight competition.

Out of those 25, they were stuck in qualification four times. Podravka has more seasons at this level than Croatian titles won.

HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO)

Qualification for the Women's EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: Croatian champions

Newcomers: Maria Holesova (Iuventa Mihailovce), Karyna Yezhykava (DVSC-TVP Debrecen), Natalia Chigirinova (Astrakhanochka), Jovana Risovic (Kecskemeti KSE), Selena Milosevic (Maccabi Rishon), Dejana Milosavljevic (ZRK Koka), Nikolina Zadravec (ZRK Bjelovar)

Left the club: Ivana Kapitanovic (Metz HB), Dora Krsnik (Krim Mercator), Ivana Dežić (SPR Pogon Baltica Szczecin), Marijeta Vidak (SCM Gloria Buzau), Elena Nemaskalo retired), Ana Toth (RK Tresnjevka), Magdalena Horvat (ZRK Bjelovar), Lara Pavlovic (ZRK Bjelovar)

Coach: Zlatko Saracevic

Team captain: Dragica Dzono

Women's EHF Champions League record:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 25
Winner (1): 1995/96
Runners-up (1): 1994/95
Semi-finals (1): 1997/98
Quarter-finals (1): 1996/97
Main Round (1): 2008/09
Group Matches/Champions League (13): 1993/94, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2002/03, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16
Qualification (4): 2003/04, 2005/06, 2016/17, 2017/18

Other EC records:

Champions Trophy:
Winner (1): 1995/96

Cup Winners' Cup:
Runners-up (1): 2004/05
Semi-finals (1): 2007/08

EHF Cup:
Runners-up (2): 2000/01, 2005/06

Croatian league: 24 titles (1993-2003, 2005-2013, 2015-2018)

Croatian Cup: 23 titles (2003-2005, 2007, 2009-2014, 2016-2017)


TEXT: Jelena Bagaric / cor
 
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