Thursday, 20 February 2020

VIDEO: Zlatko Dalic and Mateo Kovacic Announce EURO 2020

February. 20, 2020 - In October 2017, Zlatko Dalic was named coach of the Croatia national football team. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he took Modric & Co. to the World Cup final. Now, he’s leading the team through the next major International competition - EURO 2020.

The European Football Federation (UEFA) presented the Croatia national team in a video ahead of EURO 2020, featuring coach Zlatko Dalic and midfielder Mateo Kovacic.

“A lot of things have changed. It’s completely different from working at a club. I’m working for my national team, my country. That is what is truly priceless for me,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic at the start of the video, and continued:

“We’ve had an amazing time and we’ve done well again. The situation wasn’t great when I came here. There were a lot of divisions and negativity surrounding the national team. We played matches in empty stadiums. There were fines and problems with our fans. Now whenever we play, the whole country stops and watches. For me, that’s the most important thing. The Croatia national team has finally returned to its people.”

Mateo Kovacic was also interviewed in the video.

“Our coach is a very calm man. He is leading Croatia in the right direction, exactly as it should be. He’s making good, intelligent decisions, and I hope it continues like that,” Kovacic said, and Zlatko Dalic added:

“I didn’t get here by chance. I worked hard for 12 years, I got some good results. I built my name, built my career. What we are now achieving makes these years the best of my career.”

“In Euro 2008 and 2012 we had big opportunities and in 2016 we conceded in the last minuteagainst Portugal. Bad luck followed us for years, but it led to the incredible high of 2018.  Hopefully we’ll have more of those experiences,” said Kovacic.

"We must have quality, be persistent, work hard and be aware that we have got results as a team, not by standing out as individuals. That’s what’s important. I know we will be under pressure but we are used to that," Dalic concluded.

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

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

HNS Confirms First of Two June Friendly Matches: Croatia v Turkey in Osijek

February 12, 2020 - The Croatia national football team will open June with a friendly match against Turkey in Osijek as part of their preparations for the European Championship.

Gol.hr reports that while waiting for confirmation of the two friendly matches that the 2018 World Cup finalists will play in March, the Croatian Football Federation has confirmed the first of two friendly games to be played in June.

Namely, on June 1, just before the Euro 2020 begins, Croatia will welcome Turkey at the City Garden Stadium for their first friendly preparatory match. Turkey will also play at the Euros and is currently the 29th best national team in the world in the FIFA rankings.

The second friendly match before the start of the European Championship should be played on June 8 in Nice against France, though we are still waiting for the official confirmation of that match.

The meeting between Croatia and Turkey in Osijek will be the tenth jubilee match between these two teams. Several of these meetings are very memorable.

At the Euros in 1996, it was Turkey that was Croatia's historic first opponent in major competitions, and thanks to Goran Vlaovic's goal, it also became the first Croatia win. Croatia also beat Turkey 1:0 at the Euro 2016 with a brilliant goal by Luka Modric, and we certainly remember playing Turkey in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, with a glorious 3:0 victory in Istanbul.

On the other hand, we still cannot forget that Euro 2008 match when Turkey celebrated after a dramatic penalty shootout and thus advanced to the tournament semifinal.

Ticket prices and ticket sales for this friendly will be announced at a later date.

Recall, Croatia will play in the European Championship this summer in Group D against England, the Czech Republic, and the playoff winner of Nations League C.

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

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Zlatko Dalic for FIFA: "We Want to Replicate Success in Russia at Euros"

January 30, 2020 - Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic features on the official website of the World Football Federation, FIFA.

On Wednesday, January 29, 2020, FIFA spoke with Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic about that magic 2018 summer in Russia, an impressive qualification period, and what's next for Modric & Co.

"It's always fulfilling to reach your goals. It wasn't easy - it never is in qualifying - but we were at our best at the crucial points and I believe we deserved to top the group. Whenever we really needed to show our quality and pick up points, we did it, and that shows the quality, character and spirit of this group. I’m very satisfied because we managed to bring some new blood into the team, while keeping a high level of performance. What makes me even happier is the fact that we kept our togetherness, and had great support from our fans.

That unity was the key for us at the World Cup, and it will be vital for us going forward too. We saw a number of important, big-game players retire from the national team, such as Mario Mandzukic, and it was normal that the rest of the team from Russia felt something of a comedown after such an amazing World Cup. However, we tackled those issues by bringing in a few younger players, who are hungry, ambitious, and very talented - players such as Josip Brekalo and Nikola Vlasic, who were very important during qualifying. We also found an excellent new forward in Bruno Petkovic, so we managed to refresh our team with some new faces, while maintaining quality with experienced world-class players such as Modric, [Ivan] Rakitic and [Ivan] Perisic," Dalic answered when asked about qualifying for the Euro.

“I often say that togetherness is the most important quality of this group and, yes, that was true again during the qualifiers. We had some unexpected setbacks, such as losing in Hungary and dropping points to Azerbaijan, but the reaction was always fantastic. For instance, after the defeat in Budapest, we won against Wales with a quality display, and then played a brilliant game in Slovakia, winning 4-0. The leadership of our captain (Modric) was also so important in dealing with tough times; along with other senior players, he gives confidence to the whole team,” Dalic added about how Croatia tackled any setbacks along the way. 

"I love what our young players bring to the team and it will be great for them to experience the EURO with the likes of Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, and others, because the future belongs to them. Nikola Vlasic scored three very important goals for us during qualifying, while Josip Brekalo is a talented winger and played in nine matches out of ten in 2019, which shows the trust we have in him. We have a number of players who are about to enter the best years of their careers - such as Kovacic, Petkovic, Livakovic or Jedvaj, all of whom 25 or younger and played a major role during qualifying. Their quality and attitude tells me that Croatia will still be in excellent hands even after some of our senior players like Luka retire from the national team at some point."

Croatia, as a World Cup finalist, is a particular challenge for all rivals.

“For any opponent, playing Croatia is now seen as a huge game and they all play with a lot of energy, focus and desire to beat the World Cup finalists. We understand that and we prepare for it, but it still means we get everybody's best shot and that's not easy to deal with game after game. All the same, if you're a competitor, you enjoy that challenge, and you want to show everybody that you deserved your silver medals. And we have a team full of competitors who love to represent Croatia, and who understand the importance and privilege of playing for the national team,” said Dalic.

At the Euros, Croatia awaits England, the Czech Republic and the Nations League playoff winner.

“If you look at our World Cup Final starting XI, and then at our team at the end of EURO qualifying, you can see that we've changed quite a lot. We don't have as experienced a team as we did during the World Cup but, in some areas, we might be even better. If you look at our 4-0 win in Slovakia, that was as good a performance as we’ve had during my time as Croatia head coach – the World Cup included. That performance showed that Croatia will be formidable opponents for anybody, not only at the EURO, but for years to come,” Dalic said.

“It's a tough group, but there are no easy groups at major tournaments. The game against England will be an especially great challenge. They have the big advantage of playing at home, but that will also bring additional pressure to them, which is not always easy to cope with. We managed to beat England at Wembley once, in 2007, and hopefully we can do it again. But we also understand it's not the only game in the group - we need to be ready for a very solid Czech Republic, as well as a difficult third opponent, whoever that turns out to be. Our goal will be to qualify for the next round and then try to recapture the magic from Russia in the knockout stage.”

You can read the full interview in English on the FIFA website.

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

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Domagoj Duvnjak, Croatian Handball Hero and European Championship MVP

January 26, 2020 - Domagoj Duvnjak was named the player of the match in the European Championship final on Sunday, as well as the MVP of the entire competition. 

Croatia handball team captain Domagoj Duvnjak may not have led his team to the gold medal this time around, but he’s won the hearts of European handball fans thanks to his brilliant play in the 2020 European Championship. 

The THW Kiel player and Dakovo native was named the best player of the European Handball Championship before Sunday’s final between Croatia and Spain. Duvnjak not only carried Croatia to the final, but he was brilliant in the defense and attack in doing so. 

Namely, Duvnjak’s 5-1 defensive play was nearly perfect, and later in the tournament, as a true captain and leader, he carried the national team in the offense to earn the MVP title.

“The Croatian captain dragged his team kicking and screaming into their first EHF EURO final since 2010 with a string of commanding and heroic performances throughout the tournament. The THW Kiel back court ace’s display in Croatia’s marathon semi-final win over Norway, which included eight goals and the crucial penalty at the end of normal time, inspired Lino Cervar’s side to the gold medal match. The heartbeat and leader of the team, Duvnjak’s overall game of breaking up play and motivating his teammates have played an instrumental role in Croatia’s success,” said the European Handball Federation.

With this recognition, Duvnjak became the only Croat, alongside Ivan Balic, who was named the European Championship MVP. Balic won it twice - in 2004 in Slovenia and 2006 in Switzerland. 

It was Spain to win the final 22:20 on Sunday in Stockholm, which left the captain reasonably defeated, but also full of pride.

“This is one of the more difficult losses of my career. I am sad but proud of the wonderful guys who deserved this medal. We missed a little to win the European Championship. This was our first defeat at the Championship. We led in the finals, but Spain punished our mistakes in the final. But the character of this team is incredible,” Duvnjak said after receiving the silver medal.

Domagoj Duvnjak joined the Croatia national team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and was part of the team to win the Olympic bronze in 2012, the silver at the World Championship in 2009 and the bronze in 2013, and three silver and two bronze medals from the European Championship. 

Duvnjak was named the IHF World Player in 2013, and in 2009, was the most expensive handball player in the history of the sport.

We tip our hats to the Croatian handball legend for a job well done. 

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

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Are Croatian Fans the Best in the World: Winners on the Court, Winners in the Stands

January 25, 2020 - The Croatia handball team will play its 100th game ever in the European Championship on Sunday in Stockholm, which also happens to be final. A look at the celebrations of Croatian fans who have carried the team this far. 

It’s fair to say that Croatian fans are emotionally exhausted after that semifinal match between Croatia and Norway on Friday night. And for the .01% of you who missed the thriller in Stockholm, Croatia defeated Norway in the final 8 seconds of the 2nd overtime to win 29:28 and secured a spot in the European Championship final on Sunday against Spain. 

Phew.

Duvnjak was the player of the game, with eight goals scored for Croatia on Friday. 

"First of all, I would like to congratulate my teammates and the professional staff in an epic fight. I have never played a match like this in my life. We showed Croatian character, we continued to play when we lost our footing. I think we deserved to win," Duvnjak said, adding:

"There were cramps, but at that moment, you don't think about it. I don't remember half of what happened in the overtime. You only look at the traffic light and shut off. We lost to them in France and now we're back. I want to congratulate Zeljko, he has a good national team spirit, and that comes back to us,” Duvnjak said.

The “Zeljko” Duvnjak is talking about is Zeljko Musa, the other Croatian hero of the game who scored in the final seconds for the victory. 

“'We have to take responsibility, carry on to the end. We will sleep with a medal tomorrow, but we are not happy. We came to win every next game. And this next one is for gold. Domagoj is a national hero. The whole team needs to tip their hats. It was for Croatia, the fans, for all of us, it is certain that we will not stop there. This is one great success,” Musa said immediately after the game.

The Croatian fans in the stands have been particularly exceptional during this championship - and we’ve seen them go through every emotion thus far. Even tears during the nail biter on Friday. 

Screenshot 2020-01-25 at 08.55.55.png

They celebrated in the Arena after the game.

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Along the streets of Stockholm.

They celebrated in Belek, Turkey.

And back in Split.

The team deservedly celebrated in the dressing room after the game.

And on the bus ride home.

Today, we are especially proud to be Croatian. 

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

Friday, 24 January 2020

Euro 2020: Croatia Water Polo Falls to Spain in Semifinal

January 24, 2020 - The Croatia water polo team met Spain in the semifinal of the European Championship on Friday at the Duna Arena in Budapest. 

Before the semifinal match, the water polo federation organized a press conference at which coach Ivica Tucak, executive director Perica Bukic, and team members Marko Bijac and Ante Vukicevic spoke to the press.

“We came here to try to make a big difference. At this point, it means gold, because we know that only gold leads to Tokyo, which is our primary goal. If we do the analysis, a well-played tournament is behind us, but we can and must do even better. We are facing a tough match against an extremely strong opponent, but we are strong too, there is no dilemma there. We will strive to remain grounded both with faith in our capabilities and with the desire to achieve our goal,” Tucak said before the game. 

Croatia won the first sprint for the first attack of the game, though Vukicevic was unlucky. Three minutes into the game, and neither team was able to score. 

However, Marko Macan scored the first goal of the game for 0:1 Croatia with 4:45 to go.

Bijac was brilliant in goal to keep Croatia in the lead. The game ended at 0:1 for Croatia in the first quarter.

Spain finally equalized with seven minutes to go in the second quarter for 1:1.

Buslje scored a rocket with five minutes to go in the second quarter to put Croatia back in the lead for 1:2, though Spain equalized just seconds later for 2:2.

Spain took the lead for the first time in the game with 2:33 to go in the second quarter for 3:2. Bukic equalized with two minutes to go for 3:3.

Spain retook the lead with a minute to go for 4:3, though Loncar equalized with 10 seconds to go for 4:4. 

Croatia won the sprint to start the third quarter. Spain led 5:4 with five minutes to go.

Milos equalized for 5:5 with 2:50 to go in the third quarter.

Bukic equalized for 6:6 with 1:43 to go in the third, which is how the third quarter ended.

Spain retook the lead with 7:13 to go in the final quarter (7:6). 

Jokovic scored the equalizing goal for 7:7 with 5:49 to go, though Spain was up 8:7 with two minutes to go. 

Vukicevic scored for 9:8 with 20 seconds to go, though it was not enough. Spain won 9:8 for a spot in the European Championship final.

Croatia will play for third place against either Hungary or Montenegro. Croatia will now have to qualify for the Olympics at the final qualifying tournament this spring.

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

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Euro 2020: Croatia Handball Makes Dramatic Comeback to Top Germany!

January 18, 2020 - The Croatia handball team met Germany in the second game of the second round of the European Championship in Vienna on Saturday. Thanks to an incredible comeback, Croatia topped Germany 25:24 and is one step closer to the semifinal.

At 8:30 pm, Croatia and Germany met for a crucial match of the European Handball Championship in Vienna. After Belarus defeated the Czech Republic and Spain defeated Austria, the calculation was pretty clear: a Croatian victory against Germany would secure the semifinal. 

Recall, Germany had no easy road to the second stage of the competition. In the first round, Germany was convincingly defeated by Spain, and in the last round, they barely celebrated against the Netherlands. But anything could happen on Saturday night - and we're pretty sure it did.

Croatia’s Maric scored the first goal of the game in front of over 6,000 Croatian fans in Vienna for 1:0 in the 2nd minute. Duvnjak increased Croatia’s lead to 2:1 in the 3rd, though Germany equalized seconds later.  Germany took the lead in the 5th minute at 2:3, then 2:4 in the 6th minute.

Mandic scored for 3:4 in the 7th, and Karacic equalized in the 9th minute for 4:4. Horvat missed a 7-meter shot for Croatia in the 11th to keep Germany in the lead at 4:5 -  and Karacic missed one in the 14th minute. The intensity was high.

Cindric scored the equalizer seconds later, though Germany quickly retook the lead for 5:6 in the 15th minute. Germany was up by two goals in the 17th (5:7), and three goals seconds later (5:8).

Cindric scored again for 6:8 in the 19th minute and Stepancic scored for 7:9 in the 20th.

Croatia reduced their deficit to 8:9 thanks to Cindric in the 21st, though with two players up,  Germany was back to +3 in the 24th minute (8:11).

Yet another 7-meter shot was awarded to Croatia, which Horvat missed for his second time.

In the 25th minute, Germany was up by four goals (8:12) - and in the 27th minute, it was +5 (8:13).

Duvnjak scored for 10:13 in the 28th minute. 

In the final minute of the first half, Karacic scored for 11:13, though Germany was given a 7-meter shot, which they scored for +3 at the half (11:14). 

Two Croatia goals to open the second half were disallowed due to fouls, and Germany increased their lead in the 32nd for 11:15. In the 33rd minute, Germany was up by five goals (11:16).

Croatia was awarded a 7-meter shot in the 35th minute, which Duvnjak scored for 12:16. But a minute later, Germany scored a 7-meter shot for 12:17.

Brozovic scored for 13:17 in the 37th, with Karacic reducing the deficit to -3 moments later (14:17).

Stepancic and Mandic were brilliant in the 39th for a score of 16:18 - and Stepancic scored again for 17:19. Karacic scored for 18:20.

Croatia was awarded another 7-meter shot in the 44th minute, which Duvnjak scored again for 19:21.

Stepancic was outstanding for 20:21, and Croatia was well and truly on their way to making a comeback.

Horvat brought Croatia to 21:22, and Mandic scored the equalizer for 22:22 in the 48th minute! 

Croatia and Germany went back and forth for the next few minutes, with shots defended on both sides. 

Germany retook the lead in the 52nd minute thanks to a questionable 7-meter call. The game was 22:23 for Germany.

Karacic scored the equalizing goal for Croatia in the 54th minute for 23:23.

Duvnjak scored a crucial equalizer for 24:24 with three minutes to go. Emotions were high - and the intensity was higher. 

Karacic put Croatia back in the lead in the 58th minute for 25:24 - the arena went wild. 

Germany was unsuccessful in their final attack and the game ended 25:24 for Croatia! Karacic was named the player of the match.

With this win, and as long as Croatia does not lose against Spain and the Czech Repulic, they will play in the semifinal of the competition.

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

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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