11 oktobar 2008
Along with Budućnost T-Mobile, Hypo Niederősterreich, Gjorče Petrov and Krim Mercator, Podravka Vegeta is fifth team from WRHL competing amongst 16 best squads of Europe – in EHF's Champions League. Croatian Champions achieved this result led by Zdravko Zovko and his assistant coach Mato Matijević. Zovko talks about his team, qualifications and coming CL season.
Before tournament, you were convinced your team is better. Still there was a fear of disappointment.
“For sure, all the pressure is gone now. Everybody thinks it is normal for Podravka to play in CL. But the truth is that these qualifications cost us great deal of concentration and strength. Good thing is that we had good preparations for CL. Besides matches in Estella we also had strong matches in WRHL against Krim and Budućnost.
CL qualification tournament was very important to us. We did not play best we can, but in qualifications only result counts. And we can talk later about our performance. Bottom line is that Croatian champions are once again amongst the best teams of Europe, where we belong. We simply have quality to compete in CL. If we manage to collect some points against Lada, Larvik or Oltchim maybe we can go directly to CL next season.
I would like to congratulate to all my players on high level of concentration showed during these two months. In all that time we were focused only on CL qualifications.”
Is there something you are especially satisfied with?
“I am satisfied with my teams’ attitude in these matches. Maybe we did not start good first match against Itxako, but substitute players did better. Bulath, Franić and Šerić showed they can play important roles. This season we also have new reinforcements who should take their part of responsibility – Đokić, Penezić, Ungureanu and also Šerić who was borrowed to Virovitica. Fact that we have more then seven players capable of playing makes me really happy. This means when one player does not play good I can put other player and she will do better. I also want to congratulate goalkeepers. Last season we had big problems on that position. That was the reason why we brought Ungureanu who already showed her quality.”
You are also satisfied with performance of Anita Gaće, Natalija Todorovska and Maja Zebić. Wings do “fly“?
"We all know Todorovska has quality. Gaće is on good way to improve in Podravka as well as in Croatian national team. On simulation of qualification tournament in Zagreb we noticed that Todorovska can't play two good matches in two days. So in first match against Itxako Natalija played good. In other match against Leipzig Gaće took over. They now understand that all the players will get their chance. It is impossible one player to play all the time and other to sit on the bench all the time.
Handball becomes really tiring sport with high pace. I hope Anita will continue improving. I don't worry about Natalija because she is a great player. Regarding Zebić, she was injured and she is now back in shape. I am very satisfied with her."
Room for improvements
It seems Podravka is much stronger now, much more stabile. You now have players who are taking responsibility?
“It is very important having homogenous team including new players who are great personalities also. Đokić, Penezić and Ungureanu have quality, it is certain. But it is very important to become part of a team and not to be a "star“ who plays like a "one-man-band“. Ana Đokić showed that she is a good player linking our players in one unit.
I would have liked very much to see my team play better, to have good start in every match and to play without oscillations. We are capable of destroying everything what we did in just five minutes. We simply loose our heads and allow our opponents to score 5-0. If we want to do something in CL we may not allow these things to happen again. All teams in our group are better then Itxako and Leipzig (Lada, Oltchim and Larvik). So this will be our next step if we want to improve.”
Can you hold this level of readiness for first three rounds of CL?
“We subjected everything to CL qualifications. Also we did preparations accordingly. For sure we will have problems with that. I had talks with the girls and we all agreed we did great thing qualifying but the best things are yet to come. I believe all my players are aware that we must be in our best in first three rounds. We will try to hols this level of readiness with matches in WRHL and Croatian Championship.
EHF week is coming; maybe this is also not very good. Team will not be together for a whole week. From my experience this is not good. On the other hand, good thing is that majority of players will be in Croatian national team, together with assistant coach Matijević and me. We will do everything in our power to hold this level of readiness.
I also believe in Bulath and Ungureanu working good in Hungarian and Romanian national team.”