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Date: 7/28/2018

Croatia confirmed their status as one of the big favourites to win the title at Kazan 2018 with their sixth win in a row in Russia, after the world champions beat the European champions Spain in the final game of the main round yesterday.

IHF.info spoke with pivot Josip Leko, who’s defensive performance in the win ensured his side continued their winning run.

IHF.info: That’s six wins in a row now, you must feel good about that?

Josip Leko: Well, we finished the main round having won all of our games and that was our goal. Now we are awaiting the quarter-final tomorrow which is the most important game of the tournament for us and we are ready as you can see from our record.

Spain are a very good team, they won the EURO championship. They have really high quality of the players, they are quick, but we were focussed, and we won the game in the end.

We have a lucidity in our shots – we shoot with our heads, not with strength but we practice shootouts a lot in different situations. Winning 2:0 is a better feeling of course, because we know we lost a set - that always bugs you.

IHF.info: What is the style of Croatia’s defence?

Josip Leko: We like to move a lot and to cut and intercept the balls. We like to be quick on our legs: that’s our goal, but of course we also have blocks - without a block it’s not a good defence.

IHF.info: As title holders do you feel pressure? Do you feel like everyone wants to beat you?

Josip Leko: Yes, of course. Every team is very motivated to beat us, and you can see that with them. It’s also a challenge for us, but that’s good as it means in every game we have to give 100% and that keeps us going to be at the top.

You always have pressure when you defend the title – that’s the most difficult part of defending it. But we’re at every tournament in the top three at least so we aim always to accomplish that of course, but we want to win every one.

IHF.info: How do you feel when you see new teams like Vietnam and Sweden coming here and playing well?

Josip Leko: I am very happy to see that many other countries are getting involved in beach handball like Vietnam and Sweden, who, of course beat Brazil – a team that have been at the top for the last 20 years and who were unbeatable in the past.

Now that’s changed - that’s very good for the sport and will improve the sport for the future as we all get better every game.

IHF.info: It must be interesting to play against all these different styles of attack and defence on the sand?

Josip Leko: Yes, it is. For example, when we played Vietnam we didn’t know them so well, so it was difficult to accommodate their style of play. Every game you learn something new and how to defend differently, attack differently and shoot differently – it’s very good for the sport.

IHF.info: Aside from yourselves, who can win the world championship?

Josip Leko: As you can see, anyone can beat anyone, Sweden are at the top, Brazil are fighting; anyone can beat anyone, and you have five teams who can win it easily – at least five teams.