Podravka build on Champions League experienceArticle
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WOMEN’S EHF CUP COUNTDOWN #13: HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO). Backed by their Champions League experience from the first half of the season, the Croatian champions are ambitious going into the EHF Cup group phase
»2019-20 Women's News

Podravka build on Champions League experience

HC Podravka Vegeta proved once again why the small town of Koprivnica is called the home of women’s handball in Croatia.

Although they were eliminated from the DELO WOMEN’S Champions League after the group matches, Podravka treated their fans with exciting home games.

The matches in Europe’s top fight might help the team of head coach Zlatko Saracevic when they want to go as far as possible in the Women’s EHF Cup.

Three questions before the Women’s EHF Cup group phase:

- How big is the challenge for Podravka in group B?

Podravka had interesting opponents in the group matches of the Champions League gaining a lot of experience against Metz Handball, Vipers Kristiansand and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria. Now, with boosted confidence, they will face Magura Cisnadie, Kobenhavn Handball and last year’s champions Siófok KC Hungary.

“Our group is not easy, but it could be harder. We will give our best and try to go as far as we can,” says team captain Dragica Dzono.

The first match on 5 January is at home against Romanian side Magura Cisnadie: “We are playing in front of our fans, we can’t disappoint them. It’s important to win that first match because it will give us confidence for the following matches,” says Dzono.

- What are the team’s objectives in the EHF Cup?

Being the top in Croatia for 26 years and representing the country all this time in Europe, Podravka have similar goals each year.

“We want to go as far as we can. After playing in the Champions League, we are feeling confident and we will give everything we have against all opponents. Our group is full of strong clubs, all playing on a high level,” says sports director Mirana Tatari Simunovic.

The team roster hasn’t changed much. The mid-season arrival of former Croatian international Aneta Benko will help Ana Turk on the right wing. Nikolina Zadravec is out injured for the rest of the season while Maria Andrea Inanasi and Ana Debelic are recovering from injuries.

- How important is the EHF Cup for Podravka?

Led by former handball players, Podravka are aware what playing strong matches means to the club.

“Playing in the EHF Cup is very important for us, not only because we want to accomplish good results. Big European competitions give us valuable experience, especially for the young players in our team. We can also continue the promotion of our club and main sponsor in Europe,” says Tatari Simunovic.

Under the spotlight: Tjasa Stanko

Young Tjasa Stanko came to Koprivnica at the start of the 2019/20 season as a replacement for Alena Ikhneva. The Slovenian player started her career at RK Zagorje and gained international experience with Krim Mercator. In 2018 she was voted for best young player of the Champions League. Mainly a left back, Stanko can play in all back-court positions. For Podravka, she netted 27 times in the Champions League group matches, and starred at the IHF World Championship 2019 in Japan, scoring 62 times for Slovenia.


The arrival of new head coach Zlatko Saracevic in 2018 brought fresh energy and a new playing style to Podravka. The experiences players work well with the new players coming from the club’s youth academy. Also, the many fans will also back the team in home and away matches.

Fun fact

Off the court, Podravka have been strengthened by the arrival of a legend: Vlatka Mihoci, part of the legendary team that won the Champions League in 1996, returned to the club in the role of club director. Mihoci, a 105-time Croatian international, scored the last goal in that golden final nearly 24 years ago.

What the numbers say

Podravka have played in the Champions League for the 26th time this season, and have won the domestic Croatian league 25 times. The beginning of the 2019/20 season marked the club’s 64th anniversary.

HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO)

Qualified for the Women's EHF Cup group phase: 4th in DELO WOMEN'S EHF Champions League group A

Newcomers: Aneta Benko (mid-season; no club), Lamprini Tsakalou (Krim Mercator), Tjasa Stanko (Krim Mercator), Dijana Mugosa (Iuventa Michalovce), Elena Gjeorgjievska (SCM Craiova), Maria Andreea Ianasi (SCM Craiova)

Left the club: Natalia Chigirinova (CSKA Moscow), Alena Ikhneva (unknown), Karyna Yezhykava (HC Astrakhanochka), Maria Holesova (Mosonmagyaróvári Kézilabda Club SE), Tena Petika (Kisvárdai KC)

Coach: Zlatko Saracevic (since 2018)

Team captain: Dragica Dzono

European Cup records

Champions League:
Participations (including 2019/20 season): 26
Winners (1): 1995/96
Runners-up (1): 1994/95
Semi-finals (1): 1997/98
Quarter-finals (1): 1996/97
Main Round (3): 2000/01, 2001/02, 2008/09
Group Matches/Champions League (15):
1993/94, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2002/03, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2018/19, 2019/20
Qualification (4): 2003/04, 2005/06, 2016/17, 2017/18

Champions Trophy:
Winners: 1995/96

Cup Winners' Cup:
Runners-up: 2004/05
Semi-finals: 2007/08

EHF Cup:
Runners-up: 2000/01, 2005/06

Croatian league: 25 titles
Croatian cup: 23 titles

TEXT: Danijela Lemaić / ew