Thursday, 23 January 2020

Big Day for Croatian Sport: Back-to-Back Euro Semifinals for Water Polo and Handball

January 23, 2020 - Friday is a great day for Croatian sport, as Croatia’s water polo and handball teams will play in the semifinals of the European Championships.

Namely, the Croatia water polo team will play the semifinal of the European Championship against Spain at 5:30 pm in Budapest, and half an hour later, the handball team will play against Norway in the semifinal of the European Championship in Stockholm. 

Originally, Croatia water polo was supposed to play at 7 pm, while handball was to play from 8:30 pm, but due to the demands of the hosts of both tournaments, it turned out that both matches will be played earlier.

For both teams, this will be the ninth semifinal in 14 appearances at the European Championship, while the Croatia water polo team has been more successful thus far.

The "Barracudas" made it to the final three times and won the European throne in 2010 in Croatia, while the "Cowboys" advanced from the semi-finals twice, but lost in the finals both times, in 2008 and 2010. In the first final in 2008, Croatia lost to Denmark (20-24), and two years later, Croatia lost to France (21-25).

The Croatia water polo team has won a total of 14 medals at the Olympics, World and European Championships, with gold medals in all three major competitions. Recall, they won the Olympic gold in 2012 in London, have two gold medals from the World Championships in 2017 (Budapest) and 2007 (Melbourne), and one gold medal from the European Championship 10 years ago.

The Croatia handball team has 13 Olympic, World, and European Championship medals, with two Olympic (2004, 1996) and world gold medals (2003), and two silver and three bronze medals at the Euros. 

Croatia water polo results in Euro semifinals:

1995 (Vienna): Croatia - Hungary 8-11 (4th place)

1997 (Seville): Croatia - Yugoslavia 7-8 (4th place)

1999 (Florence): Croatia - Greece 10-7 (2nd place)

2001 (Budapest): Croatia - Yugoslavia 6-8 (4th place)

2003 (Kranj): Croatia - Hungary 10-9 (2nd place)

2008 (Malaga): Croatia - Montenegro 7-9 (4th place)

2010 (Zagreb): Croatia - Serbia 10-9 (1st place)

2018 (Barcelona): Croatia - Serbia 7-9 (3rd place)

2020 (Budapest): Croatia - Spain (?)

Croatia handball results in Euro semifinals:

1994 (Porto): Croatia - Sweden 21-24 (3rd place)

2004 (Ljubljana): Croatia - 25-27 (4th place)

2006 (Zurich): Croatia - France 23-29 (4th place)

2008 (Lillehammer): Croatia - France 24-23 (2nd place)

2010 (Vienna): Croatia - Poland 24-21 (2nd place)

2012 (Belgrade): Croatia - Serbia 22-26 (3rd place)

2014 (Copenhagen): Croatia - Denmark 27-29 (4th place)

2016 (Krakow): Croatia - Spain 29-33 (3rd place)

2020 (Stockholm): Croatia - Norway (?)

Source: HRT

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Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Euro 2020: Croatia Water Polo Tops Greece for Spot in Semis!

January 22, 2020 - The Croatia water polo team met Greece for the quarterfinal match of the European Championships in Budapest on Wednesday. 

Croatia had the first attack of the game, which was unsuccessful. Greece came back to score the first goal of the game for 0:1.

Croatia quickly came back to equalize with a goal by Josip Vrlic a minute and a half into the game. 

Maro Jokovic increased Croatia’s lead to 2:1 with five and a half minutes to go. Andro Buslje made it 3:1 with just under four minutes to go. Marko Jokovic made it 4:2 with 2:15 to go in the first quarter. 

Lovre Milos hit a rocket for 5:2 with a minute and a half to go. Javi Garcia scored with 13 seconds left for 6:3 to end the first quarter. 

Vrlic scored his second goal of the game to open the second quarter for Croatia for 7:3. Jokovic increased the lead to 8:3 with five minutes to go.

Vrlic scored his third goal for 9:5 with less than three minutes to go, and Vukicevic made it 10:6 a minute later, which is how the second quarter ended.

Fatovic had a one-on-one with the keeper, which resulted in a 5-meter penalty. Jokovic scored for 11:7 with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter.

Vukicevic nailed the back of the net for 12:8 with three minutes to go, and Garcia scored for 13:8 with 1:22 left. The third quarter ended at 13:9.

Greece opened the final quarter with a goal for 13:10. 

Croatia scored its first goal of the fourth quarter with 3:26 to go - Garcia scored for 14:10.

With just 30 seconds to go in the game, Croatia had the final attack. Loncar lost the ball and Greece attacked for the final time. Bijac made the save to give Croatia the 14:11 victory! 

Our 'Barakudas' will play against Spain in the semifinal, who stopped Serbia in the earlier quarterfinal game on Wednesday.

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

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Croatia Women's Water Polo Team Ends Euro 2020 with Best-Ever Placement

January 21, 2020 - The Croatia women’s water polo team ended their European Championship campaign in Budapest in 10th place. 

Namely, our women's side lost in the match for 9th place to Israel. 

This is the highest-ranking of the Croatia women’s team in competitions so far. Recall, in the previous two competitions (Belgrade 2016 and Barcelona 2018), they finished 11th place, and in Zagreb 2010, they finished 8th place, though there were only that many teams in the competition. 

Israel has made more progress in the last 3-4 years and proved it in the pool on Tuesday. Croatia even led the opening 10-12 minutes of the match, though to a minimum (1:0, 2:1, 3:2), which was followed by a series of Israel goals. By the end of the second quarter, Israel was up 3:7, and ended the game at 7:11.

The second quarter was decisive as Croatia allowed six goals and scored just two. The other quarters ended in a tie 11-7(1-1, 6-2, 2-2, 2-2).

Dina Lordan was the best for Croatia with two goals, while Emma Miljkovic, Ema Carevic, Matea Skelin, Domina Butic and Petra Bukic scored one each.

Croatian goalkeeper Aleksandra Ratkovic defended seven of 16 shots against Croatia's goal and Natasha Trojan Jimenez registered four defenses. Avelet Perese defended nine of 16 shots against Israel's door.

“At the end of the whole tournament for us, I can be relatively pleased. Six or seven national teams are substantially better than us in quality, Slovakia ran through us and we were not good there. We had a good start against Israel, and then we fell terribly,” water polo coach Marijo Ćaleta said.

“What we are missing is a larger number of players, a more modest choice purely quantitatively and this difference is visible,” he added.

The women’s team traveled back to Croatia after the match against Israel. 

Source: HVS

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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Euro 2020: Croatia Water Polo Tops Slovakia in Final Game of Group A

January 18, 2020 - The Croatia water polo team met Slovakia for the final game of Group A on Saturday in the European Championships in Budapest. 

Croatia entered the duel against Slovakia as the first-place team in Group A, with the maximum 6 points so far. Croatia ultimately secured first place after winning against Montenegro on Thursday, meaning they could relax a bit in their final group game.

Croatia opened the game with the first attack, though an attacking foul by Vrlic gave the ball to Slovakia. Jokovic had the first shot of the game a minute and a half in, though the Slovakian goalie made a brilliant save. 

Vrlic’s shot was also saved two minutes into the first quarter. With four minutes to go, the game was still 0:0. Croatia, however, was given a 5-meter shot seconds later, which Maro Jokovic scored for 0:1. 

Lovre Milos increased Croatia’s lead to 0:2 with just over three minutes to go, and with less than a minute to go, Andro Buslje scored for 0:3, which was the final score of the first quarter.

Croatia’s first goal of the second quarter came only three minutes in when Luka Loncar scored for 1:4. Buslje made it 1:5, and Lovre Milos scored his second of the game for 1:6 with less than a minute to go. Slovakia managed their second goal of the game with 30 seconds to go for 2:6. Buslje scored again with two seconds remaining, and the second quarter ended 2:7. 

Croatia opened the third quarter with a goal by Buslje for 2:8, which Loren Fatovic increased to 2:9 with just over four minutes to go. Hrvoje Benic scored for 2:10 with two minutes to go. 

Andro Buslje scored his fifth goal of the game for 3:11, which was the final score of the third quarter.

Luka Loncar opened the fourth quarter with two goals for 3:12 and 3:13. Milos increased Croatia’s lead to 4:14 with just over three minutes to go. 

Jokovic scored his second goal with 1:55 to go for a score of 4:15, and Fatovic scored his second for 4:16, which was the final score of the game. 

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

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Euro 2020: Croatia Water Polo Tops Montenegro in Dramatic Finish

January 16, 2020 - The Croatia water polo team met Montenegro in the second leg of the European Championship in Budapest on Thursday. 

In the first match, the ‘Barakudas’ defeated Germany 17:9. The match against Montenegro was decisive to win the first place in the group, which secures a spot in the quarterfinals. 

“We have really positive results against them lately. We easily won in the quarter-final of the Kazan World Championship, in the semi-final of the Olympic Games, the quarter-final of the European Championship, some big matches where we had them as an opponent and we managed to win,” said national team coach Ivica Tucak just before the start of the match.

Montenegro opened the game with a goal by Brguljan three minutes in. Croatia’s first goal of the match didn’t come until Andro Buslje scored for 1:1 with less than two minutes to go in the first quarter. 

Luka Bukic scored during an extra-man play for 1:2 Croatia, which was the final score of the first quarter. 

Bukic opened the second quarter with his second goal for 1:3. Maro Jokovic nailed the net for 2:4. Xavi Garcia increased Croatia’s lead to 2:5, while Josip Vrlic was brilliant in front of the goal for 2:6. The second quarter ended at 3:6 for Croatia.

Croatia’s brilliant defense prevented Montenegro from reducing the result in the third quarter, and goalkeeper Marko Bijac was unstoppable in goal. Croatia scored the first goal of the third quarter with four minutes to go - Luka Loncar increased the lead to 3:7.

Hrvoje Benic hit a rocket for 3:8, while Bukic recorded his third goal with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter. The game was 4:9 for Croatia. 

With less than two minutes to go, Vrlic scored his second goal of the game for 5:10, which was the final score of the third quarter. 

Montenegro reduced the deficit to 8:10 four minutes into the last quarter. And it was 9:10 with three minutes to go. Croatia had yet to score in the fourth quarter. 

Montenegro made an incredible comeback to equalize with just over two minutes to go. It was a completely different game for Croatia, and Tucak was not happy.

Xavi Garcia scored a crucial goal with just over a minute to go to put Croatia back in the lead for 10:11, but they weren’t out of the woods yet. 

Bijac, however, made an incredible save to crush Montenegro’s hopes. The game ended at 10:11 for Croatia. 

Croatia will play its final game of Group A against Slovakia on Saturday at 4 pm.

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

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Euro 2020: Croatia Women's Water Polo Team Tops Serbia, One Step Closer to Quarterfinal

January 16, 2020 - In the third round of Group A at the European Championship, the Croatia women's water polo team defeated Serbia 9:8 (2:1, 2:3, 3:3, 2:1) and made a significant step towards reaching the quarterfinal.

Emma Miljkovic and Ivana Butic scored two goals for Croatia, while captain Dina Lordan, Ana Miroslavic, Ema Carevic, Matea Skelin and Domina Butic added one goal each. 

Alexandra Ratkovic was brilliant in goal with seven saves, including defending a crucial 5-meter shot 63 seconds before the end of the game with Croatia leading 9:7.

Croatia started the match better and led by 4:2 with three minutes remaining in the first half. Still, Serbia scored for 5:4 from a three-goal series at the start of the third quarter. The decisive period for Croatia's victory was from the 24th to the 28th minute, when, with three consecutive goals from Marija Caleta, they turned the game from a 6:7 deficit to a 9:7 lead.

Sixty-three seconds before the end, Serbia failed to score from 5-meters when the brilliant Ratkovic defended Jelena Vukovic’s shot. By the end of the match, Serbia managed to make it a one-goal-game but failed to equalize in the last attack.

In the first two rounds of Group A, the Croatian side lost to favorites Hungary and Greece. Serbia also recorded two defeats to Greece and Russia, making this game extremely important in the fight for fourth place, which is the last spot leading to the quarterfinals.

By the end of the competition in Group A, Croatia will play Russia on January 17th and Slovakia on January 19th. A defeat against the extremely strong Russians is to be expected, though our girls have a great chance to win in the last match against Slovakia and thus secure the quarterfinal match. 

After the 3rd round, Croatia is in fourth place with three points. Greece and Hungary lead the Group A rankings with nine points each, followed by Russia with six points each. In fifth is Serbia and in sixth Slovakia without a single point. 

Source: HRT

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Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Euro 2020: Croatia Water Polo Opens with Big Win against Germany

January 14, 2020 - The Croatia water polo team opened their European Championship campaign against Germany in Budapest on Tuesday. 

After difficult preparations, the ‘Barakudas’ opened the European Championship against Germany, the national team they last met in the World Cup in Gwangju. 

“It's important to open the tournament properly. We have a solid and strong opponent at the start, Germany is all but a harmless team,” the Croatia coach said in an interview before the game. 

“Germany is a good team and it is certain that we will have to be at our maximum to win,” said Croatia goalkeeper Marko Bijac.

“We know them well, they are unpredictable, as they showed at the World Cup. We must not enter the game relaxed and easy. I expect a physically difficult match,” added Maro Jokovic.

And Croatia made sure they stuck to their word. 

Germany, however, was the first to score thanks to a Maurice Juengling goal. Croatia finally equalized after almost seven minutes when Josip Vrlic scored for 1:1. Marin Restovic brought Germany back into the lead for 2:1, which is how the first quarter ended. 

At the opening of the second quarter, Lovre Milos made it 2:2. Denis Strelezkij returned Germany to the lead, though Andro Buslje scored the equalizer for 3:3. Milos' second goal finally gave Croatia the 3:4 lead and Hrvoje Benic gave Croatia a two-goal advantage (3:5). Ante Vukicevic scored for 4:6 and Luka Bukic for 4:7. 

Thirty seconds into the third quarter, Croatia was up by four (4:8) thanks to Buslje’s second goal. The 'Barakudas' then became unstoppable, and Vukicevic scored for 4:9. Milos scores his third goal of the game for 5:11, while Loren Fatovic increased the lead to +7 (5:12). Fatovic closed the third quarter with another goal and a 5:13 advantage for Croatia.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Luka Loncar increased Croatia’s lead to 5:14, while Fatovic scored again for 6:15, and Bukic scored his third goal of the game for 7:16. Josip Vrlic made it 9:17 with one minute to go.

In the second round on January 16 (8:30 pm), Croatia will play against Montenegro. In the final match of Group A on January 18 (4 pm), Croatia will play against Slovakia.

Source: HRT

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

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Croatia Men's and Women's Water Polo Teams Complete Ahead of Euros

January 7, 2020 - The Croatia men's and women’s water polo coaches have released the final lists of players for the upcoming European Championship.

Croatia's men's and women's water polo teams will participate in the European Championship in Budapest from January 12 to 26, 2020. Men’s coach Ivica Tucak and women’s coach Marijo Caleta announced the final list of players for this competition on Tuesday.

Ivica Tucak has selected the following players for the 34th LEN European Water Polo Championship: Marko Bijac, Ivan Marcelic, Andro Buslje, Marko Macan, Hrvoje Benic, Maro Jokovic, Javier Garcia, Lovre Milos, Ante Vukicevic, Loren Fatovic, Luka Bukic, Luka Loncar and Josip Vrlic.

Compared to last year's World Cup in South Korea, where Croatia won the bronze, only Luka Bukic is a new face in the national team, while there is no Andelo Setka.

In addition to the coach, Mile Smodlaka (assistant), Sandro Sukno (assistant), Pero Kuterovac (fitness coach), Igor Pezelj (goalkeeping coach) and Damir Luketic (physical therapist) are also part the staff.

Women’s coach Marijo Caleta selected the following national team players for the European Championship: Dina Lordan, Petra Bukic, Emmi Miljkovic, Matea Skelin, Domina Butic, Ivana Butic, Ema Carevic, Ana Miroslavic, Mia Topic, Julija Bozan, Bruna Barisic, Alexandra Ratkovic and Natasha Trojan.

Along with Caleta, the staff also includes Alen Brakus, Mia Simunic, Kristjan Hrbic, Dunja Bracun and Kristina Delas.

The Croatia men’s team will play in Group A with Montenegro, Germany and Slovakia, and the tournament will open on January 14 (2:30 pm) against Germany. The top team in each group will go directly to the quarterfinals, and the second and third teams will make it to the round of 16.

This European Championship carries even more weight, as only the winning team will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The European teams that have already qualified to compete in Tokyo are Serbia, Italy and Spain, so advancing to the semifinals may be enough to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in the end. 

The Croatia women’s team is also in Group A with Greece, Hungary, Russia, Serbia and Slovakia. Coach Marijo Caleta will lead the team through their first game on January 12 (7:30 pm) against Hungary. The four best teams from the group will win a place in the quarterfinals.

Two years ago, Croatia finished 11th among the 12 national teams at the Euros in Barcelona. The best national team from this Championship will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, apart from Spain, as they have already qualified. 

Source: HVS

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

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Croatian Sport 2020: A Look at Year Ahead

January 2, 2019 -  After reviewing 2019 in Croatian sport, a look at the year ahead.

A remarkable year in Croatian sport lies ahead. It is the year of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, and the Euros in handball, water polo, and football - but that doesn’t even scratch the surface. 

A closer look at 2020 in Croatian sport. 

The first weekend of 2020 will kick off with the always exciting ski spectacle on Sljeme in Zagreb - the Audi FIS Ski World Cup “Snow Queen Trophy” 2020. Namely, on Saturday, January 4, the women's slalom will feature in the program, while a day later, the men will take the stage. Croatian skiers will compete in both of these races.

Leona Popovic is the biggest expectation in the women's competition after she won the first slalom points in her career in Lienz, Austria, not even one week ago. However, Croatia has a respectable team of skiers, as evidenced by the fact that three Croatian representatives have finished with points twice this season, which many nations cannot boast.

The first-ever ATP Cup will take place across Australia in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney from January 3 to 12. The Croatia national team will play in Sydney against Argentina and Poland. Borna Coric, Marin Cilic and Viktor Galovic will represent Croatia. Croatia’s tennis players will continue their stay in Australia for the Australian Open in Melbourne from January 14 to 27. 

Croatia handball is next to steal the show, as from January 9 to 26, the European Championships are held. For the first time in history, the Euros will be played in three countries (Austria, Norway, Sweden) with 24 national teams. The ‘Cowboys' are placed in Group A in Graz, where their opponents will be Montenegro (January 9), Belarus (January 11) and Serbia (January 13). The two best teams move to the second round to be played in Vienna, and from that newly formed group (which will likely include Spain and Germany), the two top-ranked teams go to the semifinals.

Nearly running parallel to the Handball Euros is the European Water Polo Championship, which will be played in Budapest. This competition begins on January 14 and ends on January 26, with the ‘Barakudas’ in Group A against Germany (January 14), Montenegro (January 16) and Slovakia (January 18). The winner of the group goes directly to the quarterfinals, and the second and third go to the playoffs against Group C, hosted by Hungary, Spain, Turkey and Malta.

The second half of the Croatian First League returns earlier than ever, on January 31, with the match between Inter Zapresic and Istra 1961. The other games of the 20th round will be played in February.

Croatian football will be in focus in the first half of February, because in addition to the Championship, the Croatian Cup will continue, where Rijeka and Dinamo are scheduled in the quarterfinals on February 5. On February 12, the semifinals will be played with the winner of Rijeka - Dinamo against the host Osijek, while the other semifinal features Slaven Belupo and Lokomotiva. 

The Champions League knockout phase continues on February 18, followed by the Europa League two days later.

Croatia basketball will begin qualifications for EuroBasket 2021 in February. Coach Veljko Mrsic will again not be able to count on NBA players or those who play in the Euroleague. Croatia welcomes Sweden on February 21 and visits the Netherlands three days later. Turkey is also in Croatia's group, and three national teams will qualify for EuroBasket. 

The Croatia football team returns in March for two friendly games as part of their Euro preparations. The dates, as well as the opponents, are still unknown. On January 31, we will find out Croatia’s remaining rival in the Euros alongside England and the Czech Republic. The Nations League C Playoffs will be played that day, and the winner will play in Glasgow against Croatia in the third round of Group D on June 23. It will either be Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia.

April may be crucial for the Croatia handball team. Should the Cowboys fail to qualify for the Olympic Games in January at the Euros, their next exam will be held from April 17 to 19 when the Olympic Qualifying Tournament will be played.

In May, the focus returns to football thanks to the Croatian Championship and Cup, with an emphasis on the Cup final on May 13 at Subicevac, followed by the last round of the Croatian First League, which will be played on May 17.

The second Grand Slam tournament of the season, Roland Garros, begins Sunday, May 24.

In June, we move our attention to the Euros in football, which begins with the Turkey-Italy match on June 12. Zlatko Dalic's side will play two friendly games, one in Osijek on June 1 or 2, and one away in France, as a rematch of the World Cup final and general prep for the Euro competition. At the Euros, Croatia will play against England at Wembley on June 14, while the second and third Group D matches will be played in Glasgow: on June 19 against the Czech Republic and June 23 against the Nations League C winner.

At the same time Croatia is expected to get out of their Euro group, the Croatia basketball team will play in the final Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Spaladium Arena in Split. Brazil, lead by coach Aco Petrovic, Tunisia, Germany, Russia and Mexico will participate in the qualifying tournament. Only the best of these teams will go to Tokyo.

Days later, tennis fans can rejoice with the return of the most prestigious tournament in the world, Wimbledon, on June 29.

On Friday, July 24, the new season of the Croatian First League and the Olympic Games begin in Tokyo. The biggest sports celebration will last until Sunday, August 9.  Croatian athletes are looking to repeat the medal harvest from 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, where they took home ten medals, five of which were gold.

In August, Croatian football clubs will fight to qualify for the group stage in one of the UEFA competitions. Namely, in the summer of 2020, five Croatian clubs will compete in the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers.

A new edition of the Nations League will follow in early September. The Croatia national team will once against compete in the highest rank.

Shortly after that, the Champions League and Europa League seasons will kick-off for the last time in the format as we know it. Recall, from 2021, there will be 32 instead of 48 clubs so far. At the same time, the last Grand Slam of the season, the US Open, will begin.

This is merely a fraction of what's on in Croatian sport this year. Follow TCN to find out more.

Source: Gol.hr

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

Monday, 23 December 2019

Croatian Sport 2019: A Year in Review

December 23, 2019 - How did this year compare to Croatia’s most successful year in sport? A look at Croatian sport in 2019. 

It seemed as though nothing could quite compare to 2018. It was the year Croatian football became World Cup finalists. The year Croatia brought home the Davis Cup trophy and thus gained sweet revenge on France. A year so successful, we’d never seen anything like it in Croatian history. 

As 2019 began, I was hardly optimistic.

“How could we be so lucky again?”

Fortunately, the year was full of pleasant surprises. It was a year that saw our young talents thrive. A year that saw countless triumphs in both individual and team sports. It was another epic year in Croatian sport.

Here is our  2019 year in review. 

Croatia Handball: 2019 began with the Men’s Handball World Championship, which featured Croatia in Group B. After four impressive wins against Iceland, Japan, Macedonia, and Bahrain, Croatia met Spain to decide the winner of the group. After topping Spain 23:19, Croatia went on to win Group B and continued to the main round of the tournament. Croatia was not so lucky there, losing to Brazil 29:26 and Germany 21:22, which ultimately took them out of the fight for the medal. A win against France for the final game of the main round restored their morale, though a loss to Sweden, in the end, saw Croatia finish the tournament as the 6th best team in the world. Croatia will play in the European Championships next month against Montenegro, Belarus and Serbia in Graz. 

Franko Grgic: Promising Croatian swimmer, 16-year-old Franko Grgic, won two gold swimming medals in the 800-meter and 1500-meter races at this year's World Junior Championships, and was even selected among the five finalists for the Piotr Nurowski Award, which as awarded by the European Olympic Committees (EOC) for the ninth time. Though he didn’t win the award in the end, he made sure he was on everyone’s swimming radar. The PK Jadran Split swimmer had an outstanding August, celebrating two gold medals and achieving new records at the 7th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest. After winning the gold in the 800-meter-freestyle while breaking a Croatian record, the 16-year-old swimming sensation became the world champion in the 1500-meter-freestyle and achieved a new world junior record with a time of 14:46.09 minutes. Grgic swam 10.46 seconds faster in Budapest than his best-ever record in the 1500 meters, which was also Croatia's national record. Franko’s previous career-fastest in the 800-meter free was achieved in Zagreb in March, where he swam 7:53.75. In Budapest, however, Grgic was 8 seconds faster, thus breaking the Croatian record held by Marin Mogic (7:51:78). Grgic was thus named the 25th fastest performer of all-time, any age, in this 800-meter freestyle. At the beginning of the year, Grgic won the gold in the 400-meter and 1500 meter at the EYOF in Baku, and also hit the Olympic standard for Tokyo 2020. We can’t wait to see him in Tokyo next summer.

 

Croatia Basketball: It wasn’t the greatest year for Croatia basketball, which failed to qualify for the World Cup in China back in August. However, with new coach Veljko Mrsic on the bench, Croatia still has a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The light at the end of the tunnel to 2019 was the welcoming news that Split would be host to the 2020 Olympic Qualifying tournament next June, where Croatia will face Tunisia and Brazil, and crossover with Germany or Russia. It will be the strongest tournament played on Croatian ground since EuroBasket 1989 in Zagreb. But not all was bleak. In the NBA, Croatia captain Bojan Bogdanovic saw a stellar transfer to the Utah Jazz this summer, where he’s been playing the basketball of his career. Ivica Zubac is still a hit at the LA Clippers and Dario Saric is finding his footing better at the Phoenix Suns. Croatia also boasts a record seven players in the NBA this season. To end on a high, two legendary Croatian basketball players Toni Kukoc and Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Giergia have been listed among the 50 candidates nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Illinois. 

Dina Levacic: Another year, another swimming success for Dina Levacic! In 7 hours, 13 minutes and 15 seconds, 23-year-old Solin native Dina Levacic completed the Tsugaru Strait to complete the fourth open water channel swim out of the seven in the 'Oceans Seven' challenge. The channel is located between Japan's largest island, Honshu and Hokkaido, and high waves and strong frontal wind accompanied the Croatian swimmer the entire way. The member of the Split Swimming Club set one of her best times and became only the 67th person to complete the Tsugaru Strait.

The ‘Ocean Seven’ is a series of seven international swimming marathons, modeled after the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge. Dina Levačić had already swum three marathon channels from the ‘Ocean Seven’ series before attempting the Tsugaru: Catalina Channel, English Channel (La Manche) and Moloka’i Channel. After the Tsugaru Strait in Japan, Dina will still need to overcome the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland, the Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa and the Cook Strait in New Zealand.

Croatia Football: On the heels of the greatest sporting success in Croatian history, the Croatia football team did not disappoint this year. Croatia’s Euro 2020 qualifiers kicked off back in March against Azerbaijan, where they won 2:1 at home. A shocking loss to Hungary stirred the pot, though wins against Wales and Slovakia put Croatia back on their feet. Draws to Wales and Azerbaijan complicated Croatia’s road to the Euros only slightly, as big wins against Hungary and Slovakia in the return games sealed the deal. Croatia not only qualified for the Euros next summer, but they finished at the top of their qualifying group. 2019 was also a pivotal year for Croatian football, as it will be remembered as the year the national team returned to Poljud stadium in Split for the first time since 2015. Croatia played to a sold-out stadium and coach Zlatko Dalic called it the best atmosphere they’d experienced. The Euros await Croatia next year, where they will face England, the Czech Republic, and the winner of the Nations League C (Norway/Serbia v Scotland/Israel). 

Dinamo Zagreb: It was another successful year for Dinamo Zagreb, who clinched the Croatian Championship title for the 20th time back in April after defeating Slaven Belupo. Dinamo secured the title six rounds before the end of the season and 23 points ahead of Rijeka in second. While Rijeka went on to win the Croatian Cup, Dinamo went on to have an impressive Champions League campaign. After soaring through the Champions League qualifiers and playoff round, Dinamo advanced to the Group Stage against Manchester City, Atalanta, and Shakhtar Donetsk. Dinamo opened their seventh Champions League appearance against Atalanta at Maksimir stadium with a shocking 4:0 victory. They fell to City both times, drew to Shakhtar twice, and couldn’t do itagainst Atalanta the second time around. The Zagreb club finished last in their group and will not continue their European run in the spring. 

Croatia Water Polo: It was a busy year for the Croatia water polo team, which began with the Europa Cup in Zagreb, where Croatia failed to defend the title after losing to Hungary in the final. From the Europa Cup to the World League Super Final in Serbia, Croatia went on to defeat Kazakhstan, Australia, Japan, and Spain for a spot in the final against Serbia, where they lost by one goal. The summer continued with the World Championships, where Croatia was again better than Australia,  the USA, and Kazakhstan. They defeated Germany in the quarterfinal but lost to Spain in the semis to miss their chance in the final. Croatia did, however, beat Hungary for third place. Croatia will compete in the Euros next month, where they will have to finish at the top to secure their spot in the Tokyo Olympics next summer. Croatia water polo ended the year with yet another impressive recognition as two team members are among the top seven in the world - Maro Jokovic and Josip Vrlic.

Croatia Tennis: Unlike last year, where Croatia took home the Davis Cup title, this year saw a Croatia squad plagued with injuries and a new coach just days before the tournament was to begin. Croatia didn’t make it out of their group this time around after falling to Russia and Spain, but they can be proud of their individual achievements. Osijek native Donna Vekic made it to the Nottingham final where she lost to Caroline Garcia.  She even advanced to the round of 16 at the Cincinnati Masters, Roland Garros, and the US Open. Petra Martic defeated 19-year-old Czech player Markéta Vondroušová to get her first WTA title at the Istanbul Cup.  Martic also secured the fourth WTA final of her career at the Zhengzhou Open, where she lost to Karolina Pliskova, and also faced Serena Williams in the US Open round of 16. Both Petra and Donna played in the WTA Elite Trophy tournament, which brings together female tennis players ranked 9th to 19th on the WTA ladder. Borna Coric made it to the semifinal of the Dubai Open, Rosmalen, and St. Petersburg, where he ultimately went on to the final. Marin Cilic’s first semifinal in fourteen months wasn’t until the Kremlin Cup back in October. The real star of Croatian tennis this year is Ivan Dodig, who won two ATP doubles titles with Filip Polasek, at the China Open and the Cincinnati Masters. Dodig also won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Latisha Chan and defended their Roland Garros title just weeks before. 

Sandra Perkovic: Sandra Perkovic failed to defend the world championship title in the discus throw this year, which she won two years ago in London, but still secured a medal at the World Championships in Doha. Namely, Perkovic won the bronze medal after throwing 66.72 meters in the first series of the finals, while Cubans Yaime Perez and Denia Caballero were the gold and silver medalists. This was Sandra’s fourth medal at the World Championships. Sandra became the world champion in Moscow in 2013 and London in 2017 and won the silver in Beijing in 2015. In addition to four world championship medals, Perkovic is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time European champion.

Croatia Gymnastics: It was another big year for Tin Srbic, who won the silver medal at the European Championships in Szczecin in the horizontal bar event. The Croatian gymnast went on to win the gold medal with an impressively high score of 14.900 points at the World Cup in Paris, and ended the year with a silver medal at the World Championships in Stuttgart. He was also named the best Croatian male athlete by the Croatian Olympic Committee. 

 

Croatia’s best female gymnast Ana Đerek won the gold medal at the World Cup competition in Osijek after a brilliant floor performance, and Robert Seligman advanced to the Cottbus World Cup finals in the pommel horse. 

Sinkovic Brothers: The dynamic duo did it again! The year began with a second-place medal in the coxless pairs at the World Cup in Plovdiv, though it only went up from there. Martin and Valent Sinkovic defended their world rowing championship title in the coxless pairs in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria, qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, and ended the year as the best rowing team in the world, declared by the FISA World Rowing Organization!

Snjezana Pejcic: Croatia's best female shooter Snjezana Pejcic and her Indian teammate Divyansh Singh Panwar won the mixed team air rifle competition to wrap up the World Cup final in Putian, China. Pejcic has already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which will be her fourth appearance at the Olympic Games. 

Croatia Taekwondo: The Croatia national team finished their appearance at the European Senior Championships with three medals - silver medals for Lovro Brecic and Toni Kanaet and a bronze for Matea Jelic. 

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Dino Sinovcic: Croatian Paralympian Dino Sinovcic won the 100m backstroke gold medal in the S6 category at the WPS World Paralympic Championships in London. Sinovic won at the Queen Elizabeth Aquatic Center with a time of 1:15.46, ahead of the Chinese swimmer Hong Yang who swam a time of 1:15.47 for the silver, and Argentine Matias De Andrade, who swam a time of 1:16.91 for the bronze. 

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Stipe Miocic: The 36-year-old Croatian-American Stipe Miocic defeated 40-year-old American Daniel Cormier by a knockout in the fourth round of the UFC 241 fight held in Anaheim, California. Stipe thus won sweet revenge on Cormier and brought back the UFC Heavyweight Champion title to Ohio after he lost it to Cormier in Las Vegas 13 months before. The fight between Miocic and Cormier lasted more than 19 minutes, in which the title defender had more significant blows (123-98). 

Croatia Karate: The karate gold and silver came to Croatia thanks to the brilliant Kvesic brothers from Karate club Hercegovina-Zagreb. At this year's European Games in Minsk, Ivan Kvesic won the gold medal while his brother Anđelo Kvesic secured the silver. Croatian representatives returned home with eight medals from the European Games in Minsk - two gold, one silver and five bronze.

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

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