Thursday, 24 June 2021

Olympic Qualifying Preparations in Split: Croatia Basketball Tops Puerto Rico in Friendly

June 24, 2021 - Croatia basketball topped Puerto in a friendly match during their Olympic qualifying preparations in Split. 

The Croatia men's national team defeated Puerto Rico 74-59 in the preparatory match for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Split at Spaladium arena next week.

After an even first quarter, Croatia pulled ahead in the second and, despite a poorer shooting performance (three-pointers 2-18), easily controlled the game until the end. It should be emphasized that Croatia will be at an even higher level in the Olympic qualifying tournament, especially when Bojan Bogdanović officially joins the team. Bojan arrived in Split on Wednesday and followed the course of events from the bench.


Burak Canboy


Burak Canboy

Croatia played an excellent three quarters defensively and the chemistry and the spirit of unity can be felt in the national team.

It should be mentioned that Mario Hezonja is in great form. He scored 13 points with 6 assists and 3 rebounds. Miro Bilan had 3 rebounds with 15 points, and Ante Žižić (11 points, 5 rebounds) gives great confidence to his teammates by playing under the basket.


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Although Puerto Rico is behind Slovenia in terms of quality, Croatia is certainly improving. And at the right time.


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Veljko Mršić - Croatia coach

"We played a good game, above all great in defense, except for the first 10 minutes. I would say that the defensive performance is in line with what we showed in the first four qualifying matches, the European Championship. The attack worked well at times. However, I expect it to be better, more fluid and to get rid of the ball faster. Following that was our game in the final quarter. That's what we want. If we play that way, we will have many good attacking positions, and the shots will start to come in. Today we shot badly, but most of those shots were open shots from crafted actions, so that doesn’t worry me.


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Last night we had a solid two-hour training, and the players were certainly tired from it. We’re missing two players who are proudly playing in the NBA Western Conference Finals, and we can’t use them. We will play for them in this tournament as well. We have a good team composed of quality players, but our task is to make a top team because that is the only way to achieve the goal we have. We have not placed any imperative, nor do we want to place it. The current imperative is to be better with each new training. To play as a team, keep this level of defense because then no matter what the attack will be, we can be satisfied and have a great chance to go to the Olympics. We will also need a lot of support from the stands. You saw how much that meant to Split in the Croatian Championship finals and then to Višnjik Zadar. We expect something like that in Split as well, for the audience to be the sixth player and to find that path to success together.”


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Miro Bilan:

"One of the tasks we were given in the locker room was related to a smaller number of received points than against Slovenia. Slovenia went twice over 90, and as the defense has adorned us in the qualifications so far, it is clear why it was imperative, so we succeeded. We played a great 30 minutes as a team with dedicated defense. Until the Olympic qualifying tournament, we have to work on adapting Bogdanović. His appearance instills confidence in us, but because of his quality, it will attract the attention of opposing defenses and open the way for others to make shots. Among other things, opponents will have to prepare a lot more for him and no one doubts that he is a big plus for us. It will surely fall into place. Today, we made some attacks much easier. There's still room, but I don't care about the attack. Hezonja is in great shape, so is Ukić. I don't care about tonight's trio as long as we share assists and play this kind of defense."


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Burak Canboy

Mateo Drežnjak:

"Although it is a friendly match, it is important that we won to raise our self-confidence before the tournament, after two defeats to Slovenia. We started a little more relaxed and then raised the defense, which we did not have in two games against Slovenia. As soon as we raised our aggression in the second quarter and scored a couple of easy points, we were up by 6-7 points, and then by 10, and the advantage grew. Everyone got a chance, and I sincerely hope that there will be more spectators at the qualifiers to support us in a week because it’s easier with the fans. Every match in the tournament will be difficult. The most important thing is to get out of the group first, and then from game to game and, if possible, win the tournament."


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Source: HKS

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Sunday, 20 June 2021

Huge Boost for Croatia: Bojan Bogdanović in Split for Olympic Qualifiers!

June 20, 2021 - Croatia is thrilled to have Bojan Bogdanović in Split for the Olympic qualifiers at Spaladium Arena from June 29 to July 4! 

Croatia basketball player and NBA star for the Utah Jazz Bojan Bogdanović confirmed in an interview for US media that he would play for the national team in the Olympic qualifying tournament, which is being held in Split. Bogdanović and Utah were relegated from the NBA playoffs after a series against the LA Clippers, reports HRT.

"I will play for the national team, so I will already be in full training in seven or eight days," said Bogdanović.

After two defeats in friendly matches against Slovenia, Croatia's next game in preparation for the Olympic qualifiers will be against Puerto Rico on June 23 at the Spaladium Arena, where the tournament will be held for a spot in Tokyo. Veljko Mršić's team will compete against the same national team one day later, on Thursday, June 24.

The tournament for Tokyo is played from June 29 to July 4.

Croatia, Tunisia, and Brazil will meet in the group stage of the qualifying tournament in Split in June. Croatia will play against Brazil on June 30 at 8 pm and the next day against Tunisia at the same time. Brazil and Tunisia will play on June 29, also from 8 pm. After the group stage, there is a day of rest, and on July 3, the semifinal matches are scheduled. The final match is scheduled for July 4 at 7:30 pm. Only the winner of the tournament will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Croatia's group crosses over with Germany, Russia, and Mexico. The Split tournament and the other three hosted by Belgrade, Kaunas, and Victoria in Canada are scheduled from June 29 to July 4, 2021. 

The competition format has changed in Tokyo. Instead of how it was previously held, in which 12 national teams were divided into two groups of six, and the four best from the group stage continued to compete in the quarterfinals by knockout, the new system divides the teams into three groups of four.

The first two national teams from each of the three groups will advance to the quarterfinals and join the two best of the three third-placed teams. With this system, each match of the group stage becomes even more important, and to win an Olympic medal, it is now necessary to play six instead of the previous eight matches.

The Olympic qualifying tournament at the Spaladium Arena will also be held in front of spectators, reported Slobodna Dalmacija last week. 

At the request of the Croatian Basketball Federation and with the support of the Chief of the Split Civil Protection Headquarters, Bojan Ivošević, consent for the presence of fans in compliance with epidemiological measures was given by the County Civil Protection Headquarters.

Physical distance must be implemented, i.e., a distance of at least two meters must be maintained, and the spectators, technical and organizational staff present must meet one of the following conditions: that they received the second dose of vaccine more than 14 days ago, that they overcame COVID-19 in the last 180 days, that they had recovered from COVID-19 and were vaccinated with a single dose, or that they had been negative on a PCR test, no older than 72 hours, or tested negative in the past 48 hours on a rapid antigen test.

The organizer, the Croatian Basketball Federation, is responsible for controlling the measures and conditions.

The Croatia national team will thus get the desired support from the stands, which could ultimately be its advantage for a spot in Tokyo.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Croatia Basketball Team Returned to Zagreb, Olympic Qualifiers on Horizon

December 1, 2020 - After an excellent November qualifying campaign for EuroBasket 2022, in which they have already secured their spot in the competition with two games to go, the Croatia basketball team returned to Zagreb.

The Croatia basketball team has already qualified for the European Basketball Championship, which will be played in 2022. After a long time, Croatia deservedly advanced to another big competition, without keeping us on the edge of our seats. 

Coach Veljko Mršić could not use NBA and Euroleague players due to the rigorous rules in force, but was able to use basketball players from the Croatian league and those who play in Europe. Mršić put together a very good team that demolished Turkey (+17) and Sweden (+15). The stars included Ukić, Bilan, Šakić, Prkačin, Drežnjak, Marčinković and other promising talents. 

"We are happy and satisfied with what we have done, we have four wins and no defeats - unlike the previous World Championship qualifiers where we did not advance. Finally, we did it without stress. Two games are left. We will see what will happen with the pandemic in February, but we will certainly try some young players," said Mršić in an interview for Dnevnik Nova TV.

Croatia played the qualifiers without the great NBA stars, Bojan Bogdanović, Ivica Zubac, and Darijo Šarić.

"We will continue these qualifications without NBA players and those from the Euroleague. When the big competitions and qualifiers for the Olympics come then we will surely step up with our best players but we don’t want to lose the chemistry in the team. We will only take those who will submit to the team," says Mršić.

Croatia plays the qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games in Split in June. If there is luck in the Spaladium Arena, Bogdanović, Šarić, Zubac, Šamanić, Bender, Žižić and other well-known names in Croatian basketball will play. However, some players won't be available in June if they are in the conference finals and NBA League Finals.

Croatian fans are secretly hoping that Utah Jazz will not go that far this season because that would make Bogdanović available for Croatia. The national team is twice as strong with him.

"We will certainly try to take our best players from the NBA league who will be available. We depend a lot on the NBA league because we don’t know how far our players will go. Likely, those who will play the conference finals and the NBA league finals will not be with us, but we will certainly take whoever is available," concluded Mršić.

Bogdanović is the best Croatian basketball player of the 21st century. Although he is a big star in the NBA league, he has never refused to play for Croatia in his career, unlike some others. His help would make it easier for Croatia to qualify for the 2021 Olympic Games.

Source: HKS

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