Without a win and boasting a goal difference of -29 and -24, the past two editions of the Women's EHF EURO have not been kind to Croatia as they finished last in both tournaments.
This time around, their players have more experience and are slowly getting on par with the requirements, but will it be enough to break back into the elite?
- coach Neven Sostaric leads the team for his second EHF EURO tournament in a row
- Sostaric has called up 22 players for the EHF EURO 2020, with 17 players plying their trade in the Croatian league, while five play in France, Russia and Hungary
- Croatia are the only side to have lost all games in the past two EHF EURO tournaments
- they have won 19 games from their 43 played in the EHF EURO, with their best result coming in 2008, finishing sixth
- Croatian hopes are tied to centre back Dejana Milosavljevic having a good tournament, the Podravka player has scored 42 goals in six games in the DELO EHF Champions League
Most important question: Will Croatia return to the main round?
This will be Croatia’s ninth consecutive EHF EURO appearance, yet the team has not progressed to the main round since 2010. While some tournaments might have been disappointments, the past years have featured a full-blown reconstruction of the team, with key players retiring and young stalwarts taking over.
Croatian handball has steadily produced exciting players in the last decade, but club teams have not performed at the highest level in European competitions, yet those players began to bulk up their experience. This time, Nenad Sostaric will bring an exciting mix to the table, with 13 players coming from domestic powerhouses Podravka Vegeta and Lokomotiva Zagreb, while experienced players who ply their trade abroad such as Katarina Jezic and Camila Micijevic, the tallest player in the DELO EHF Champions League, completing the roster.
Will it be enough to contend for a main round berth? Croatia face reigning world champions Netherlands as well as Hungary and Serbia for a place in the next phase and need to spring a surprise against their more experienced opponents if they are to prevent another early elimination. Their first game against Hungary will be crucial, but Croatia’s fate could still be decided in their derby against Serbia in the last round.
Under the spotlight: Dejana Milosavljevic
This will be only the second EHF EURO for the 26-year old centre back, but she could be one of the stars for Croatia, provided she keeps the rhythm set at club level for HC Podravka Vegeta. Two years ago, Milosavljevic only scored one goal in 41 minutes played at the EHF EURO 2018, but has consistently performed for Podravka in European competitions.
Milosavljevic leads the Croatian club in goals scored this season in Europe’s elite club competition, with 42 goals in six games, putting her second in the top scorer ranking.
A powerful shooter, despite her diminutive height, 173cm, Milosavljevic will surely be the player to look out for in the Croatian side, as she proved her mettle against tough opponents in the DELO EHF Champions League, scoring 12 goals against Brest and eight times against Györ.
What the numbers say
20 – The number of wins reached by Croatia, provided they earn one at the EHF EURO 2020. The Croatian side has won 19 games from the 43 played in EHF EURO history, a winning percentage of 44.1 per cent.
EHF EURO participations (including 2020): 11
Sixth place (1): 2008
Main round (3): 2006, 2008, 2010
Best result: 6th in 1997
7th place: 2012