Tough Luck Croatia
December 1, 2016
A fifth place at the very first Women´s European championship still stands out as Croatia´s greatest achievement in the history of the tournament.
It will be extremely difficult for them to get even close to this result this time around, as they ended up in the toughest of all groups.
By Peter Bruun
It is a bit hard not to feel sorry for Croatia. Why – you may ask? Simply put because of their bad luck at the draw for EURO’16.
In any of the other groups, Croatia would have had a good opportunity of proceeding to the main round – but not in a group together with Norway, Russia and Romania.
The three teams are among the top candidates to lift the trophy in the Scandinavium of Gothenburg on December 18.
Such competitors will make it extremely difficult for national coach Goran Mrdjen and his players.
Mrdjen, who is also in charge of Croatian champions Podravka, took over the national team after Croatia´s disastrous European championship on home ground in 2014, back then they did not even manage to qualify for the main round.
He initiated a generational change, and after failing to qualify for the World Championship in Denmark last year, his crew made the European championship courtesy of a second place behind Montenegro but ahead of Slovenia and Macedonia.
It is the ninth time, Croatia is taking part at a European championship, and so far, the very first edition of the tournament has been their best. In Germany in 1994, Croatia finished fifth.
More recently, qualifying for the quarter-final at the London Olympics 2012 stands out as one of Croatia´s main international accomplishments.
Mrdjen and his team – when we look at the roster even Croatia´s best goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic is missing – will certainly have their work cut out for them in Sweden.
Croatia will not be able to do much harm to any of their three opponents in Group D. Norway, Russia and Romania will proceed to the main round, and Croatia will book an early flight home -like it or not.
Andrea Penezic – (Left-Back)
A lot of responsibility is resting on the shoulders of Andrea Penezic, if Croatia is to have any hope for success when they take to the court in Helsingborg.
The 31-year-old from Vardar adds her enormous handball talent as well as a dangerous shot from distance to the Croatian side. She will need to increase her total score of 629 goals considerably in order for Croatia advancing in the tournament.
Vesna Milanovic-Litre – (Line Player)
Milanovic-Litre is the second most experienced player in the Croatian team with 101 internationals, only surpassed by Andrea Penezic with 140 games.
The 180 cm tall pivot is also an important player to her team at the other end of the court. Her one-year in Gyor from 2014 to 2015 may not have been a tremendous success for her, but after joining Krim Ljubljana last summer, she has been blooming again, and she has played an important part in Krim´s Champions League success this fall.
Sonja Basic – (Playmaker)
29-year-old Basic may be spending her handball life on the club level a bit under the radar from the international top, at Ipress Center-Vac (Hungary).
But she is one of the few players on the Croatian roster who possess some of the skills and experience the squad so badly needs. She was also part of Team Croatia at the 2012 London Olympics as well as the two most recent European championships.