Hrvoje Horvat takes over CroatiaArticle
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NEWS: Lino Cervar's assistant takes the reins after Croatia's poor showing in Egypt

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Hrvoje Horvat has been named the new head coach of Croatia’s men’s national team. After their worst performance at a major competition since 2003, Lino Cervar resigned at Egypt 2021. One of the most successful coaches in Croatian history pointed out that his mission is over and he gave three proposals for his successor. Just three days later, the Croatian Handball Federation announced that Nexe’s coach will take the reins.

Young 'Cveba', as he is known, was the assistant coach to Lino Cervar for the past three years and has learned a lot about the hot seat he is about to sit in. Due to his new obligations, he will have in the Federation, Horvat will leave his position at Nexe.

“The first mission is to underline problems we had the World Championship in Egypt and learn from those mistakes. I will talk to all players in the following days.

“We have a big and tough task in front of us - Olympic qualification. We don’t have a lot of time to prepare but my advantage is that I know the team. I have been part of the national team for the past three years.”

“Just the beginning for me”

Horvat started his coaching career in Dubrava and in 2016 moved to Nexe. During that time he gathered experience in the national team as a head coach to the 1996-born generation, leading them both at youth and junior championships and lately as an assistant coach to Cervar. This is a big next step for this up-and-coming coach.

''My coaching path was good, I took one step at a time. Croatian Handball Federation had trust in me over the last eight years and I am honored to be given this huge role.

“Each competition taught me something new and gave me a lot of new experience. Especially EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, which was a highlight for me as a young coach. I love to learn and I believe this is just the beginning for me."

The new Croatia head coach was a well-known face at the beach handball too, both as a player and a coach. He has seven medals from competitions, including gold from world and European championships. He cut his playing career short but as a centre back he played for clubs in Croatia, Germany and Switzerland.

Handball as a way of life

Coming from a handball family, Horvat’s path is not a surprise. His father Hrvoje Horvat Cveba is a legendary Croatian playmaker. 'Cveba' Sr. won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1972, two bronze medals at the 1970 and 1974 World Championships and in 1972 won European Champions Cup with Partizan Bjelovar. Both of Horvat’s sisters played handball at a young age and one of them was married to late Iztok Puc, another legendary handball player.

Coaching also runs in their blood and with Horvat's appointment, a circle is complete. Cveba Sr. was the first head coach of Croatia, leading them in their first match against Japan on 14 Janaury 1991, while Lino Cervar was the assistant coach.

“My family is a well-known sports-handball family. In our house handball was on the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Handball for us is a way of life. When I was little, everyone was playing handball thanks to Partizan Bjelovar and their success. My dad wrote the book 'Handball - my life’  and he transferred that passion to all of us. We talk a lot about handball and to this day he always gives me advice.”

Nexe has a bright future

Nexe will have to continue their campaign in EHF European League without Horvat and a new coach will be presented in the following days. During his four years in Nasice, Cveba Jr. had great successes, and the club was recognised for developing promising young talents.

“I am happy that Nexe was growing from season to season since my arrival. It's a great club led by a successful president, founded on healthy grounds and has clear goals. I want them to grow even more. It is not easy to leave after four years but I'm bringing beautiful memories from Nasice.”

Hrvoje Horvat has 45 days until his first match and all eyes will be on him. It's a popular saying that Croatia is a country of four million experts when it comes to sport. Challenging days are upon the national team but if Horvat is a long-term option there is no doubt Croatia will come back stronger.

TEXT: Danijela