Podravka eyeing knockout phase return
HC Podravka Vegeta are a stronghold of women’s handball in Croatia and the small town of Koprivnica has another chance to prove why it is called ‘home of handball.’
With a somewhat changed roster, the team of Zlatko Saracevic aims for a place in the knockout stage of the DELO EHF Champions League.
Main facts bullet points
- going into CL group phase for third straight season, and 23rd time in club’s history
- runners-up in 1995 and champions in 1996, Podravka have not reached the knockout stages for 22 years
- Croatian legend and former Zagreb coach Zlatko Saracevic heads into his third season as head coach
- Saracevic has to do without some leading players, including Tjasa Stanko (moved to Metz), Elena Gjorgjijevska (Cisnadie) and Aneta Benko (retired)
- pandemic situation prevented Podravka from winning their 26th domestic title in 2019/20
Most important question: Can PodravkaVegeta make a step forward?
Podravka had some exciting home games in past seasons but have not reached the knockout stage for 22 years. This season, getting to that phase of the revamped DELO EHF Champions League is a main objective for the club, which will face Valcea, Györ, Buducnost, Dortmund, CSKA, Brest and Odense in group B.
“We are aware of the hard opponents in the group and that fast handball will be in the focus,” says club legend and sports director Miranda Tatari Sumunovic. “We trust in our team and have high hopes we can deal with anyone.”
Playing in Europe’s top fight is very important for the club, says Tatari Simunovic, especially for a club from a small town. It helps them grow a strong connection to the community - both with fans and sponsors.
The first match on 13 September is at home against Buducnost, and team captain Dragica Dzono, who heads into her seventh season in Podravka's jersey, says: “Not playing a match since March is the biggest motivation for us. We miss the play and can’t wait for the season to start.”
Dzono hopes for “wind in the wings for us this season. Every match will be hard and exciting, each match will be new challenge. That’s the magic of this sport.”
Under the spotlight: Korina Karlovcan
Korina Karlovcan, who turns 22 in October, made the headlines in 2018/19, scoring the winning goal for Podravka in their EHF Champions League qualification match.
The left wing, coming from the Podravka Academy, has been a member of the team ever since. Also, her talent was recognized in Croatia’s youth and junior national teams until she was invited for the senior national team.
Always positive with a smile on her face, with each new year of experience, she is one to watch for the future.
How they rate themselves
Since the arrival of head coach Zlatko Saracevic in 2018, fresh energy and a new playing style have changed Podravka.
With several great matches giving more experience to the players, Podravka reached the semi-final of the former Women’s EHF Cup and won 19 out of 19 matches in the Croatian league - until both competitions were cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Did you know?
Podravka Vegeta enjoy a great atmosphere at all home matches. Faithful fans are a strong support for the players and the whole town is breathing handball.
They are easily recognizable in Koprivnica but the official fan club can be spotted at away matches, too.
Do you know how the fan club is called?
What the numbers say
In 2020 Podravka Vegeta are celebrating their 65th birthday. The club has a long tradition and remains at top level of women’s handball since 1955.
An interesting fact is that Podravka have more participations in the EHF Champions League (27) than national titles in Croatia (25).
Newcomers and left the club
Newcomers: Yuliya Dumanska (Ramnicu Valcea), Margarita Škarić (Split 2010), Ana Buljan (Split 2010), Bruna Zrnić (RK Lokomotiva)
Left the club: Tjasa Stanko (Metz Handball), Elena Gjorgjijevska (Magura Cisnadie), Maria Andreea Ianasi (Magura Cisnadie), Jovana Risović (Krim Mercator), Aneta Benko (retired), Ana Debelić (Astrahanochka)
- EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2020/21 season) :27
Winners (1): 1995/96
Runners-up (1): 1994/95
Semi-final (1): 1997/98
Quarter-final (1): 1996/97
Main Round (3): 2000/01, 2001/02, 2008/09
Group Matches/Champions League (15): 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, 2018/19, 2019/20
Qualification (4): 2003/2004, 2005/06, 2016/17, 2017/18
Champions Trophy: Winners: 1995/96
Cup Winners’ Cup: Runners-up: 2004/05; Semi-final: 2007/08
EHF Cup: Runners-up: 2000/01, 2005/06
Croatian league: 25 titles
Croatian cup: 23 titles