Balic defends sacked coach as Goluza braces for showdownArticle
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Legendary centre back says players are to blame

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Balic defends sacked coach as Goluza braces for showdown

Zagreb playmaker Ivano Balic this week said the club’s decision to sack Ivica Obrvan was unfair to the coach, who had guided the Croatian title holders to the VELUX EHF Champions League last eight.

Obrvan was shown the exit door only a week ahead of Saturday’s quarter final showdown with THW Kiel in Europe’s elite club competition, after their shock 31:29 defeat by Macedonian rivals Vardar Skopje in last weekend’s regional SEHA league semi final.

Balic, a handball legend with a haul of major international honours under his belt, believes the players had let the coach down with a dreadful performance against unfancied Vardar, who went on to win the SEHA league with a 21:18 win over city rivals Metalurg in the final.

"It was harsh on Obrvan but it was the easy way out for the board because you can’t sack 12 players," Balic told Zagreb’s Antena Radio as reported by Croatia’s Sportnet website (

"Such is the nature of the beast when it comes to coaching, it’s a cut-throat business and you never know when your time is up," said Balic, adding that the team has had hardly any time to adapt to new coach Slavko Goluza, who made a winning debut with a 32:26 Croatian league win over NEXE on Wednesday. But Balic acknowledged that beating Kiel, the 2007 and 2010 EHF Champions League winners, would be an entirely different prospect.

"They have only lost one game all season and we will need a full house to get behind us on home soil if we are to come out on top in the first leg," Balic said. "We need to play strong defence and our goalkeepers have to produce a scintillating performance, otherwise we are in trouble. Kiel have the best backcourt line in the world and it’s hard to keep them at bay, but we will at least give them a good run for their money," he added.

Having steered Croatia to the EHF EURO 2012 bronze medal in January, Goluza will be no stranger to a sizeable contingent of Zagreb players who were in the squad which finished third in the 16-nation event in Serbia.

He said the offer to take charge of Zagreb as a caretaker coach until the end of the season had come as a complete surprise.

"Out of the blue to be honest, but I had no second thoughts when they called me up because they said they needed help and I couldn’t turn them down," said Goluza, a former Croatia pivot who won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004 as well as the 2003 World Championship before taking over as the country’s coach from Lino Cervar in 2010.

"Being in charge of the Croatian champions is a massive honour but it’s also a huge responsibility. I have pledged my commitment until the end of the season, which will be over in a month or so. Then we shall sit down and see what the best course of action is," he said.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic