Zebić: "Let´s forget Győr!"Article
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The Croatian international focuses on Itxako´s next match against Larvik in the EHF Champions League.

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Zebić: "Let´s forget Győr!"

Last season Itxako was named as the 'dark horse' of the tournament, and after a great march, coach Ambros Martín´s team was only stopped in the final.

This year, the Spanish champions are one of candidates for winning the EHF Champions League trophy. Croatian international Maja Zebić moved to Itxako´s home of Estella to help her side to victories. The left winger has the tough role of replacing Emiliya Turey, and so far, she’s done very well.

ehfCL.com talked to the 29-year-old who shared her thoughts about Itxako´s Main Round opponents, her move to Spain, and the special offensive and defensive training as wing player.

ehfCL.com: Despite high expectations prior to the match, your Main Round start went wrong, with Győr defeating Itxako in a very tight match. How do you reflect on that game and what was the initial impression of your colleagues and coach Martín after the game?

Maja Zebić: We already knew that Győr was great team and we were preparing for a long time for that match, but unfortunately we failed. We simply didn’t have a solution for their best trio Görbicz, Lekić and Løke, not to forget the excellent Lunde Haraldsen. So many errors in offence and in defence should not happen to such a good team as we are, but we are still not discouraged! 

Coach Martín told us that we should immediately forget this match. We still have a lot of work to do and we must turn our thoughts to our next game against Larvik. I agree with this completely. So congratulations to Győr on the victory, and we are moving on to Larvik! 

ehfCL.com: This coming weekend you´ll travel to Norway for a repeat of last year´s EHF Champions League final. Larvik consists of several players that won the World Championship in Brazil, and they´re the title holder of the EHF Champions League. Do you expect another close game? What tactics does your team need to implement for a possible victory in Norway?

Maja Zebić: Larvik is a great team. We’ve had a whole week to prepare for them and I can say that we are not going to Norway to lose! If we manage to prevent their high paced game, including their many counter attacks, I think we’ll have a good chance.

ehfCL.com: Talking about your own situation, last summer you moved from Koprivnica to Estella. How do you feel in Spain, are you well integrated now, and what are your personal expectations for this season?

Maja Zebić: I spent 7 beautiful years in Croatia, but I must admit, when I arrived in Estella I started to see what it’s like to really enjoy handball. I am very happy here and I feel great. People have accepted me in the best possible way, and for sure, Spain will always bring me good memories.

I would be even happier if we could repeat last year´s success of reaching the final of the EHF Champions League! 

ehfCL.com: What differences do you see in playing systems for a Spanish club compared to your former club Podravka?

Maja Zebić: Podravka and Itxako cannot be compared, as we play much faster, more modern handball with a lot of individual freedom and creativity.

ehfCL.com: Has your game play improved since you’ve been coached by Ambros Martín? What parts of the game do you feel comfortable about and where do you expect improvements?

Maja Zebić: I personally think that my game has improved at Itxako, although it could still be better. As I mentioned, we have a lot of freedom in our game here, and it suits me well. 

Coach Martín also used to play at the left wing position during his handball career, so we have a lot of exercises for the wingers, both offensively and defensively – something that I didn’t have in the past.

ehfCL.com: In May, you’ll play for the Croatian National Team in the Olympic Qualification tournament against a Spanish team that includes several of your club team-mates. Has there been any talk about this tournament yet, or is all focus on the EHF Champions League right now?

Maja Zebić: Yes, I’ve talked with my team-mates from Itxako about this and they all agreed that Spain and Croatia should qualify, as simply, they are better teams than Argentina and The Netherlands. And I have to agree on that!

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs