Euro Handball Qualifiers this Week: Lino Červar Gathers ‘Cowboys’ in Zagreb

Daniela Rogulj

Croatia begins their road to the 2020 Euros this week with two games against Switzerland and Belgium. 

Croatia men’s handball coach Lino Červar gathered the ‘Cowboys’ in Zagreb on Monday for two crucial games this week, reports on October 22, 2018. 

“I know that we are the favorite on paper and we are not running from it, but I’m worried because it underestimates the opponents. I think Switzerland and Belgium are respectable,” Lino Červar said on Monday in Zagreb ahead of the first two qualifying matches for the European Championship in 2020. Croatia will play against Switzerland in Osijek (October 25) and Belgium in Leuven (October 28).

This is the third major task of the Croatia handball team this year. 

“Ahead of us is our third task this year. We have played the qualifications for the World Handball Championship, which we have secured. After that, we went to the Mediterranean Games in Tarragona, where we surprised and won the gold medal for the first time in 14 years. Now we have the third task, which is to secure our performance at the European Championship in 2020,” said Červar, who called upon 18 players to meet in Zagreb.

Domagoj Duvnjak is back in the lineup. 

Červar has thus called up goalkeepers Marin Šego (MOL-Pick Szeged) and Mate Šunjić (US Ivry); Wingers Manuel Štrlek (Telekom Veszprem), David Mandić, Zlatko Horvat and Josip Božić Pavletić (all PPD Zagreb); Circular runners Željko Musa (Magdeburg), Kristian Bećiri (Celje PL) and Marin Šipić (Nexe); and Jasper Bičanić (PPD Zagreb), Halil Jaganjac (Metalurg), Domagoj Duvnjak (Kiel), Luka Cindrić (Vive Kielce), Igor Karačić (Vardar), Luka Stepančić (Paris Saint-Germain), Jakov Vranković (Grundfos Tatabanya), Ivan Martinović (Gummersbach) and Alen Blažević (MOL-Pick Szeged).

“Switzerland has already defeated Norway once in the qualification, who is the finalist of the World Championships. I have to say in advance, and I will say the same to the players, that we have to be extremely careful and we must do everything we can to win the match. After that, we will think about Belgium, who, in qualifying for the European Championship in France, we overcame in two very close games,” added Červar.

Luka Stepančić warned of how dangerous underestimating their opponents can be. 

“Over the last two years, the number of good national teams has increased; when it was previously just four or five good teams, today, it is much greater. In my opinion, Belgium and Switzerland need to be taken very seriously. It is uncomfortable, especially, that both teams will play 7 against 6 where they have excellent players – for Belgium it is Qerimi and for Switzerland it is Schmid. If we remember, Belgium almost beat France at home two years ago, Switzerland defeated Norway at home just by playing 7 against 6 – and it certainly will not be easy. Realistically, surely we are better than both teams, especially in Osijek at home, so we have to celebrate,” concluded the right-winger for PSG.

Goalkeeper Marin Šego said the most important thing is the medical record of the team.

“The most important thing is that we are all healthy so that we are ready for this first match. The return of Domagoj Duvnjak means a lot to us. Just that he is healthy and that his knee is not in pain,“ said Šego.

After the team gathered in Zagreb, they traveled to Osijek where on Thursday, October 25 (20:15), at the City Garden Stadium they will host Switzerland. Three days later, they will visit Belgium in  Leuven (15:45). 


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