Croatia captain Bojan ‘Babo’ Bogdanović emphasized: “Both victories are very important to us because the points are transferred to the second round. I hope we will play well, first in Stožice and then in Rijeka, and try to achieve both victories. I’m looking forward to the atmosphere in Stožice; I think it will be great basketball. But we are not complete, we lack a lot of good players, especially players on the ball. We miss Simon, Krušlin; Šarić has not yet recovered… We are quite handicapped by that, but even with those absences, we are strong and quite good, and there are a lot of young players.”
Bogdanović gave his thoughts on Luka Dončić: “He is one of the best players in the world; there is also Goran Dragič, they are very good at pick and roll, and I think we will have a hard time defending one on one, so we have prepared several team defenses that we will try to play against the two of them, and I hope we get results. If we come out with the right energy, I think we have something.”
The match in Rijeka is certainly no less important than in Slovenia. Moreover, this match is crucial for entering the second round of qualifications.
“I hope we will come to the match in Rijeka in a good mood and atmosphere. I hope for a great game in Stožice, and then against Finland, it is imperative to win regardless of Thursday’s game.”
Ivica Zubac, who has not been with the national team for a long time, spoke about what he expects from the upcoming matches: “Victory! We have been preparing for several days. Unfortunately, Bojan and I did not have much time, but we prepared individually and worked well these days. If we stick to what we did in training, both offensively and defensively, we have a chance to win.”
About Luka Dončić: “The plan is to make it as difficult as possible for him, to be as aggressive as possible, to make him work in defense and to attack him in that way. We will not stop him for sure; we can try to slow him down and hope for the best.”
And how does Zubac see himself for Croatia? “I think I’ve made a lot of progress in the last three or four years, I have more games in my legs and I think I can help a little more than last time.”
Coach Damir Mulaomerović, despite his proverbial objectivity, is optimistic: “For me, the most important thing is that we are as ready as we can be. My only regret is that we didn’t have Bojan and Zubac for longer. The guys are ready; we know what awaits us – a great game, a strong Slovenia, Luka Dončić… we know what awaits us. I believe in these guys, and what I ask of them is to give their maximum, in the wake of what we did against Sweden for the last twenty minutes and two overtimes, to leave our hearts on the court, and that is what can put us in a positive situation. We were already in a tough situation; we got out, and now we have Bojan, Zubac, and Žiža. We can hope for a good game, and what is important to me as a coach is that we are compact on the court and react well defensively. It is certain that Slovenia also has the pressure to win because each of these matches can decide who goes next.”
How to stop Dončić?
“He is a great player, so everyone is asking that question. With individual and team defense, we will try to stop him or force him to shoot as many bad shots as possible. Because of his talent and all that he gives in the NBA and his national team, he is getting better and better. It won’t be easy, but we are very motivated. Maybe it is more important that we do not let the rest of their players develop. There are a lot of strong individuals, so I would not say that only Dončić should be stopped.”
All 16 players from the preparations went to Slovenia, but only 12 will play at Stožice.
Croatia player list:
- 1 Toni Perković
- 2 Goran Filipović
- 4 Roko Prkačin
- 8 Mario Hezonja
- 10 Lovro Gnjidić
- 11 Tomislav Zubčić
- 17 Dragan Bender
- 23 Mateo Drežnjak
- 32 Roko Rogić
- 40 Ivica Zubac
- 41 Ante Toni Žižić
- 44 Bojan Bogdanović
Both matches are broadcast live by Sport Klub televizija. Tickets for Croatia – Finland can be found at ulaznice.hr.
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