Dethroned in the domestic league, but ready for a new seasonArticle
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Women’s EHF Champions League countdown, part 16: After losing their long-running hold on the Croatian domestic league last season, HC Podravka Vegeta have taken the long route to this year’s group phase, but are ready to make amends.

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Women's News


Betting on who will win the Croatian domestic leagues is not usually too difficult; for many years the men’s team from Zagreb and the women’s team from Koprivnica have dominated, surrendering the Croatian championship title only rarely. 

While Zagreb’s men continued their unbeaten run in the 2013/14 season, HC Podravka Vegeta lost both Croatian trophies – and so had to go through the Women’s EHF Champions League Qualification Tournament. Despite the setback, the experienced club were successful in this phase and finally had something to celebrate as they won the right to continue to the next stage of the competition.

Surprisingly, it was not the two favourite Scandinavian teams, Byasen Trondheim and FC Midtjylland (participant of the first ever Women’s EHF FINAL4 in May), that faced each other in the final of the qualification tournament, but the two Balkan sides: Radnicki Kragujevac (host) and Podravka. Cheered on by new club president, Olivija Jakupec, the Croatian league runners-up clinched their berth for the group phase with a 28:24 win.

Though their top player, Vesna Milanovic Litre, joined defending Women’s EHF Champions League champions Györ, coach Goran Mrđen can count on a strong squad this season, with players such as Miranda Tatari returning from Astrakhan and Kristina Elez arriving from Rostov-Don (both Russia). 

Podravka hope for a clear improvement on last season; their goals include taking back the Croatian trophies from Lokomotiva, and ranking higher in both the multi-national WHRL league and the EHF Champions League. They also aim to still be part of the EHF Champions League competition come springtime 2015. 

In the group phase the draw could not have been more difficult for the Croats, as they will face Buducnost, Vardar and Thüringer HC in the group phase. 

Despite these opponents, club director Bozica Palcic aims to “at least make one step forward in the Women’s EHF Champions League. We are aware that, unfortunately again, we were drawn into a very strong group, but that does not mean we will downgrade our goals. After analysing last year’s Champions League results we set a list of things we needed to improve. In my opinion, we have succeeded in covering all of them and we have a much more forceful Podravka squad than we had last year.”

Team captain Miranda Tatari is satisfied Podravka have achieved their first goal by qualifying for the group phase.

“In my opinion we are playing in the strongest group, which means it will not be easy for us, but we'll give our best to achieve a good result. Good luck to everyone!” 

Three questions to coach Goran Mrđen:

Concerning your objectives and your group opponents, what are your expectations for the upcoming season of the Women’s EHF Champions League?

Goran Mrđen: We expect to continue on from the group phase as one of the first three clubs in our group.

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

Goran Mrđen: This participation is a way of continuing to compete at this level, which will help us reach our goal of a better position than last year. 

Which teams are your personal favourites to reach the FINAL4 tournament of the Women’s EHF Champions League season – and why?

Goran Mrđen: Györ, Vardar, Buducnost, Larvik, Viborg – those clubs have had great results over the last few seasons, and they have a respectable squad list.


Qualification for the Women’s EHF Champions League 2014/15 season: winner of qualification tournament Group 2, Croatian runners-up.



Miranda Tatari (Astrakhanochka)

Kristina Elez (Rostov-Don)

Ana Niksic (Ipress Center-Vac)

Dragica Dzono (Nantes LA HB)

Left the club: 

Vesna Milanovic Litre (Györi Audi ETO KC)

Tina Gavranic (Volda HC)

Dina Havic (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb)

Iva Pongrac (ZRK Koka Varazdin)

Anita Poljak (Zelina)

Coach: Goran Mrđen (since 2013)


Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2014/15 season): 21

Winner (1): 1995/96

Finalist (1): 1994/95

Semi-finalist (1): 1997/98

Quarter-finalist (1): 1996/97

Main Round (3): 2000/01, 2001/02, 2008/09

Group Phase (11): 1993/94, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2002/03, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14

Qualification (2): 2003/04, 2005/06


Other EC records:

Cup Winners’ Cup:

Finalist (1): 2004/05

Semi-finalist (1): 2007/08

Quarter-finalist (1): 2006/07

Last 16 (2): 2012/13, 2013/14

EHF Cup:

Finalist (2): 2000/01, 2005/06

Quarter-finalist (1): 2001/02

Last 16 (1): 2003/04

Champions Trophy:

Winner (1): 1995/96


Croatian championship: 20 titles (1993-2003, 2005-2013)

Croatian cup: 19 titles (1993-2004, 2006, 2008-2013)

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg