Croatian Sport 2021: What Awaits Us this Year?

By 3 January 2021
Croatian Sport 2021: What Awaits Us this Year?
Slobodan Kadic

January 3, 2020 - Croatian sport 2021 - a look at the competitions we have to look forward to this year. 

At this time last year, we were excited about all that 2020 had in store, which included the football Euros and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

But, as we all know, a little something called COVID-19 changed our plans, and most major competitions have been moved to this year. 

Numerous world championships have been postponed to 2022

The consequences of COVID will be felt for a long time to come. Some of the big competitions that were supposed to be played in 2021 have already been postponed to 2022 because they were supplanted by those that didn’t occur in 2020. Among them are the World Championships in Athletics in the US and the World Championships in water sports in Japan. The World Indoor Athletics Championships in Nanjing have been postponed until 2023.

However, this year will be one of the most demanding yet. In addition to the football Euros, Copa America, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the 2021 World Water Sports Championships will be held in December in Abu Dhabi. Of course, all under the assumption that we avoid new cancellations until then.

Handball at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021

Without the Olympics and the football Euros in 2020, we were lucky we had handball to keep us entertained. The Croatia women's handball team ended the year with a sensational European bronze medal, the first medal since Croatia's independence. At the same time, the men's side won the European silver medal in January.

The men will again be the first to take action in 2021 at the World Champs in Egypt, which starts on January 14 and lasts until the end of the month.

Summer of sport 

The football Euros will be played from June 11 to July 11, and the Tokyo Olympics from July 23 to August 8. Until the Olympics begin, many more Croatian athletes will try to win a Tokyo spot, such as Croatia's national handball team, water polo team, basketball team, and many in individual sports.

Here's a closer look at what 2021 has in store, as reported by


The winter transfer period begins.

On the first day of the new year, the winter transfer window begins in almost all European leagues. Numerous clubs will try to use January to strengthen their teams to continue this unusual season, and some of them will have to resolve expiring contracts for players who, in that case, can go for free in the summer.

World Handball Championships (January 14-31)

Croatian handball players have won five medals at world competitions so far, including the gold from 2003, but they've been without one since 2013 when they returned from Spain with a bronze medal. Captain Domagoj Duvnjak is one of the few remaining from that generation. He was named the best player at the European Championships in 2020, and he will soon lead Croatia in the fight for a new medal.


World Club Football Championship (February 1-11)

It was supposed to be played last December but was moved by two months because most of the participants were not yet known as not all continental competitions had been completed. Bayern earned a place by winning the Champions League back in August, Al-Duhail as a representative of host Qatar in September, and Egypt’s Al-Ahly, South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, and Mexico’s UANL in the past month. Oceania has decided to send New Zealand's Auckland City to the competition by decree. The South American representative will be known exactly two days before starting the competition because the Copa Libertadores final is scheduled for January 30. Only the semi-finalists are known.

Australian Open (February 8-21)

The pandemic has also disrupted the tennis season, so the first Grand Slam has been moved by three weeks and will begin on February 8.

Ski World Championships (February 9-21)

The most famous Italian ski resort Cortina d'Ampezzo will host the world's best skiers. Croatia will have its trump card for the medal in Filip Zubčić, one of the world's best giant slalom skiers. The championship starts the day after the Australian Open and ends the same day as the tennis Grand Slam.

Dinamo in Europa League (February 18)

After conquering the Europa League group, the Croatian champion is in the knockout phase, and its first opponent is Russian club Krasnodar. The first match will be played on February 18 in Russia, and the return match will take place seven days later in Zagreb. The dates of the last 16 are March 11 and 18, the quarterfinals April 8 and 15, and the semifinals April 29 and May 6. In the same terms, i.e., one and two days earlier, the Champions League's knockout phase is played.

Olympic Qualifiers for Water Polo (February 21-28)

The Croatia water polo team must first complete the World League finals from January 8 to 10, but the main goal of this gathering is to qualify for the Olympic Games. From February 21 to 28 in Rotterdam is the qualifying tournament from which three of the 12 participants will win a spot in Tokyo. Croatia is in the group with the host Netherlands, France, Russia, Germany, and Romania. Four teams from each group go to the quarterfinals.


Olympic qualifications for handball (March 12-14)

We will know whether the Croatia handball team will go to the Games only two weeks after water polo. They will have a simpler job because 12 teams are divided into three groups of four, and two national teams from each group will go to Tokyo. Croatia will play against France, Tunisia, and Portugal in Paris.


Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships (April 21-25)

After Tin Srbić, Filip Ude, and Aurel Benović recently brought home silver medals from the European Championships; it is clear that Croatia is not to be looked over at the World Champs.


End of HNL (May 15)

May is mostly intended for the end of the football season, and the last round of the Croatian Football League is scheduled for May 15. Four days later, the Croatian Cup finals are played.

Roland Garros (May 23 - June 6)

In addition to football, the tennis season lasts throughout the year, and the second Grand Slam in Paris should be played in the standard term.

Europa League Final (May 26)

Another 32 clubs compete, including Dinamo Zagreb. We know that Sevilla will not defend the title because they are in the Champions League's knockout phase. The two best teams will face off on May 26 in Gdansk, Poland, where the 2020 final was to be played before the pandemic moved the final phase of the competition to Germany.

Champions League Final (May 29)

Only three days later we will get a new European champion, and the final will be played in Istanbul. The title is defended by Bayern.


Football Euros (June 11 - July 11)

Exactly 364 days after it was originally scheduled, the European Football Championship will begin. There is still a possibility that it will be played in less than the planned 12 cities across the continent, but Uefa is determined to keep the format as is. The Croatia national team is in Group D with England, Scotland, and the Czech Republic, and in the last 16, there will be two teams from each of the six groups and the four best third-placed teams. The Championship opens with Italy and Turkey in Rome on June 11, and the final is at Wembley exactly a month later. The defending champion is Portugal.

Wimbledon (June 28 - July 11)

The world’s most famous tennis tournament is the only one of four Grand Slams not held in 2020. Tennis players return after two years in the standard term, so the final, as usual, overlaps with the European Football Championship final.

Olympic qualifiers for basketball players (June 29 - July 4)

Split is hosting one of four qualifying tournaments for the Olympic Games. The term is the same as it was supposed to be last year. At the Spaladium Arena, Croatia will first play against Tunisia and Brazil. Two of the three teams will advance to the semifinals, facing Germany, Russia, or Mexico. Only the winner of the tournament goes to Tokyo. Croatia's NBA players will participate depending on how successful their teams are in the playoffs, which will be in full swing at that time. However, the selection of coach Veljko Mršić in the previous qualifications for the Eurobasket has shown that it is not all that bad without them.


NBA Finals (July 22)

The strongest basketball league in the world started two months later than usual, so instead of the first half of June, it will end by July 22 at the latest. The NBA made sure to finish before the start of the Olympic Games, but those who go far in the playoffs will still not be able to go to Tokyo.

Tokyo Olympics (July 23 - August 8)

Like the Euro, the Olympic Games will be held in an odd year for the first time in history. There are many more unknowns, both about the number of spectators and about the competitors themselves. Even if a good portion of athletes is vaccinated or infected by then, the Olympics are a global event in which people worldwide arrive in one city, which will pose special challenges to organizers in the pandemic era. Croatian athletes won a record ten medals in Rio in 2016, five of which were gold, and repeating this result would be a fantastic success. 


Tokyo Paralympic Games (August 24 - September 5)

After the Olympians leave Tokyo, the Paralympians arrive. Croatia won five medals in Rio, two of which were gold.

US Open (August 30 - September 12)

The highlight of the American part of the tennis season is traditionally the US Open, which starts this year on the penultimate day of August. Marin Čilić had his greatest success here in 2014.


Futsal World Cup (September 12 - October 3)

This competition was supposed to be held at the same time in 2020. Croatia did not qualify because they lost to the Czech Republic in the play-offs on penalties.


World Rowing Championships (October 17-24)

As long as they are rowing, the Sinković brothers will be favorites for the gold, regardless of the discipline. We look forward to seeing them in Shanghai next fall at the World Champs.


ATP Finals (November 14-21)

The top eight tennis players and the top eight tennis couples will gather in Turin, which has won the organization of the ATP finals until 2025. Danil Medvedev celebrated in London last year, and in the doubles competition, the title was taken by Nikola Mektić with Dutch partner Koolhof. In 2021, Mektić will play with Mate Pavić, so we can hope for the first appearance of an all-Croatian doubles team at the end of the season.

Davis Cup (November 22 - 28)

Immediately after the ATP finals, the Davis Cup begins, with the participants who reached the finals in 2020. Croatia is one of the 18 national teams that will be divided into six groups. The group winners and the two best runners-up will advance to the quarterfinals.


World Handball Championships (December 2 - 19)

The Croatia women's handball team was a hit at the recent European Championships, but they will not go to the Olympic Games. However, with the European bronze, they secured a place in the World Cup, played in Spain in December.

This schedule will also include numerous events for which the date is not yet known, such as the clash of Stipe Miocic, who will most likely defend the UFC heavyweight belt against Francis Ngannou in March, or boxers Filip Hrgovic and Alen Babic, who continue their journey to the top of the world boxing.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.