Tough road to the main round ahead for Croatian championsArticle
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COUNTDOWN: Women’s EHF Champions League countdown, part 4: HC Podravka Vegeta

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Women's News

Tough road to the main round ahead for Croatian champions

Podravka Vegeta are in full transition and a season of uncertainty lies ahead. The Croatian record champions from Koprivnica have a new coach, a new interim director and nine newcomers, while ten players left the 20-time domestic champions set for their 20th appearance in the EHF Champions League.

Among those who left are some experienced players such as Lidija Horvat, Sanja Damnjanović and Marta Žderić and in their place come mostly young players, joining from Croatian sides or returning to their home-country, like Jelena Živković and Jelena Trifunović, who moved from Budućnost during the summer.

Even the coach is new: Goran Mrđen is the successor of Neven Hrupec, who had been coaching Podravka for some years.

After four straight years of failing to proceed to the main round, the team are faced with high hurdles once again, as Podravka will face last season’s finalist Larvik (NOR), the new powerhouse from Vardar and Spanish champions (and competition debutants) Bera Bera.

“We are aware that, unfortunately again, we were drawn into a very strong group, but it does not mean we will downgrade our goals.

“Given that we have a new and young team, we hope that we will ensure the continuation in the European competition after the group matches,” says Ljerka Vresk, interim club director, who currently replaces Božica Palčić (maternity leave) in this position.

“Every team in the Champions League have big ambitions. HC Podravka Vegeta this year have a really young team but it will be difficult since we have strong group."

“We will fight until the end and maybe this young team can surprise and reach at least the third place in the group, which would mean to remain in the European Cup competitions,” says team captain Vesna Milanović Litre.

Podravka again is start their season in three competitions. Besides the Croatian league and Women’s EHF Champions League they face stiff competition in the WRHL.

With the goal in Croatia to win all available trophies, Podravka hope for a better ranking in the WHRL compared to last season where they finished fourth in the play-offs, despite coming out on top in the regular season.

Three questions to coach Goran Mrđen:

What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the Women’s EHF Champions League - concerning your objectives and your group opponents?

Goran Mrđen: In our group we have two favourites for winning the Champions League, Larvik and Vardar, and therefore they are of course favourites for reaching the main round. Bera Bera are also a good team and they can, like Podravka, cause some surprises. 

What does the participation in the Women’s EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Goran Mrđen: Every match in our group will be difficult and very interesting. This season we want to finish third in our group and stay in European competitions for the spring of next year.

What teams are your personal favourites to win the Women’s EHF Champions League season – and why?

Goran Mrđen: 1. Györ 2. Krim, 3. Larvik, 4. Vardar, 5. Budućnost - they have many good players, a lot of experience in this competition and I think one of them will win the trophy.

HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO)

Coach: Goran Mrđen (since June 2013, former coach: Neven Hrupec)

Newcomers (including former club): Jelena Živković (ŽRK Budućnost), Jelena Trifunović (ŽRK Budućnost), Mirjana Milenković (Besancon), Dina Havić (RK Zamet), Tina Gavranić (RK Zamet), Lea Vukojević (RK Zelina), Antonia Jukić (RK Zelina), Ekatarina Nemaškalo (RK Sesvete Agroproteinka), Anita Poljak (RK Lokomotiva)

Left the club (including new club): Miranda Tatari (Astrakhanocka), Sanja Damnjanović (Viborg HK), Marta Žderić (ŽRK Budućnost), Ivana Jelčić (RK Lokomotiva), Anita Gaće (RK Lokomotiva), Lidija Horvat (RK Lokomotiva), Tanja Kiridžić (Iuventa Michalovce), Žana Čović (SG BBM Bietigheim), Maja Šon (unknown), Nikica Pušić Koroljević (pregnancy)

Qualification for the 2013/2014 EHF Women’s Champions League season: Croatian champions

EHF Women’s Champions League records:
Participations (including 2013/2014 season): 20
Winner: 1995/96
Finalist: 1994/95
Semi-finalist: 1997/98
Quarter-final: 1996/97
Main Round: 2000/01, 2001/02, 2008/09
Group Phase/Champions League: 1993/94, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2002/03, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13
Qualification: 2003/04, 2005/06

Other EC records:

Cup Winners Cup:
Finalist: 2004/05
Semi-finalist: 2007/08

EHF Cup:
Finalist 2000/01, 2005/06

Croatian champion: 20 times
Croatian Cup winner: 19 times

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor