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18.09.2010, 10:10◄ last page     

VELUX EHF Men’s Champions League countdown, part 21: RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb (CRO)

Back to the roots with youth

Since the first season of the EHF Men’s Champions League in 1993 the team from the Croatian capitol has been participating in this mayor European club competition. First they competed with the name Badel Zagreb, nowadays as RK Croatia Osiguranje Zagreb.

Famous players developed in this club, and the team itself reached the EHF Champions League finals four times, but without ever winning the title.

The leading club from Croatia has great problems with players leaving: After stars like Igor Vori or Domagoj Duvnjak (both to HSV Hamburg, GER) left Zagreb in 2009, this year players like Kiril Lazarow, Denis Spoljaric or Tonci Valcic have found new clubs.

Despite this great change in his team, manager Ante Antic is positive: "In the upcoming season we expect to have a 20 to 30 percent better team than in the previous season. At the same time we decrease our budget 20 percent. It might look impossible, but we believe that we can do it with our young Croatian players. We are already planning for the season 2011/2012, so this season is meant to be mainly a very good lesson for our young players."

Still the objectives of the club remained the same as last season: to win all domestic titles and reach the Quarterfinal of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

Like last season, Zagreb seems to magnetically being drawn together with the new clubs of their former stars in the group stage of the VELUX EHF Champions League. Last year they played against HSV Hamburg in the group phase, now they meet Ciudad Real, the new club of top class left hander Kiril Lazarow, for whom Zagreb received a transfer fee of 125,000 Euro as stated on the club website.

Aside Zagreb will have a Balkan duel with Bosna Sarajevo, and meet Constanta, St. Petersburg and their old enemy SG Flensburg, against who they play in almost every season.

But not only Lazarow left the club, also World and Olympics Champions Mirza Dzomba (to Kielce) and Denis Spoljaric (to Berlin) are gone.

The best known newcomer is Slovenian international David Spiler, coming from Koper. Spiler is one of only four non-Croatian players in the squad that still will be led by Ivano Balic. The playmaker was voted "Best Handball Player ever" by users of the IHF website this summer.

They had good results in the preparation phase: At the Schlecker-Cup in Germany Zagreb reached the final, but lost it against current VELUX EHF Champions League title holders THW Kiel. After that they won the tournament in Porec.

New coach Nenad Kljaic, who succeeded Senjanin Maglajlija in March 2010, can build upon those results and may be able to focus on the VELUX EHF Champions League, as the Croatian league hardly used to mean hard work for RK Zagreb so far.

Key facts

Newcomers: David Spiler (HC Cimos Koper), Adnan Jaskic (HC Borac Banja Luka), Michal Kopco (HC Dunaferr), Goran Bogunovic (HC Siscia)

Left the club: Mirza Dzomba (Kielce), Denis Spoljaric (Berlin), Josip Valcic (Gummersbach), Vjenceslav Somic (Gummersbach), Kiril Lazarow (Ciudad Real)

Coach: Nenad Kljaic (CRO, since March 2010)

Club records

EHF Champions League finalist 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999
EHF Champions League semi finalist 2000
Cup Winners Cup finalist 2005
Croatian Champion 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Croatian cup winner: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Find more information here.

TEXT: Björn Pazen

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