Croatia Men’s Volleyball Team Secures Spot at European Championship!

Daniela Rogulj

Updated on:

Hrvatski odbojkaški savez
Hrvatski odbojkaški savez

This will be Croatia’s first participation in the European Championship after 2015, when they finished the competition in Italy with three group-stage defeats, reports HRT.

The match in Apeldoorn was full of nerves, a difficult psychological encounter, but no less physically demanding, because the day before, Croatia defeated Sweden in five sets. At the same time, the Netherlands had one more day to rest.

Ivan Raič, Croatia’s corrector who, along with Filip Šestan, was the most efficient with 17 points, revealed after the match:

“We knew before the game that one set was enough for us to be among the best second-placed national teams going to the Euros, but we started quite nervously. Still, we showed that we had character at the end of the first set. We played more relaxed. In fact, it was only then that we started to play more freely. I think it was a good, quality, and interesting match in which we deservedly celebrated in the end.”

Indeed, Croatia showed its character in that first set, winning 27-25. The Netherlands led 10-7, 17-13, 23-20 and had a set-ball at 25-24, but Emanuele Zanini’s team turned the lead in their favor and won the first set for a spot in the European Championship.

In the second set, Zanini’s team led for the most part, although the hosts put up a fight. The set ended at 25.23. Instead of solving the game with 3-0 sets, the third and fourth sets went to the Netherlands, the fourth especially easily.

However, once again, Croatia played the best when it was most needed. The fifth set went to Croatia with 15-13 for the final celebration on the court, which they certainly deserved.

They played bravely, on the verge of risk, which paid off in the end. Croatia’s captain and longest-serving member, along with Ivan Raič, did not hide his happiness after the match.

“I would like to congratulate my team, the entire professional staff, and all the people who believed in us. It is difficult to describe the feelings at the moment after this long-awaited triumph for which we have worked hard. We will be maximally prepared for the Euro, and believe me, we will not disappoint you,” said Tsimafei Zhukuoski.

The Netherlands won first place in qualifying group A with ten points, while Croatia won seven and took its place among the top five runners-up to play in the European Championship.

24 national teams will take part in this year’s Euro. The hosts Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Finland, and the eight best national teams from the last European Championship (Serbia, Slovenia, France, Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Germany, and Belgium), had the direct right to play. In the qualifications, 12 more teams were wanted for the Euro. In addition to Croatia, there is also the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Turkey, Latvia, Slovakia, Greece, Portugal, Northern Macedonia, Spain, Belarus, and Montenegro.

Next weekend, Croatian is back in action, this time in the Silver Group of the European League, which will be great preparation for the European Championship.

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