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2019 Men’s World Championship 2019 Men’s World Championship
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Date: 12/20/2018

Coach: Lino Cervar


Key players: Domagoj Duvnjak (Centre back), Luka Cindric (Centre back), Manuel Strlek (Left wing)


Qualification information: Winner of European play-off versus Montenegro


History in tournament: 1938-1993: part of Yugoslavia (results officially inherited by Serbia), 1995: 2nd, 1997: 13th, 1999: 10th, 2001: 9th, 2003: 1st, 2005: 2nd, 2007: 5th, 2009: 2nd, 2011: 5th, 2013: 3rd, 2015: 6th, 2017: 4th


Croatia burst onto the scene in 1995 with an incredible silver medal at what was their first Men’s World Championship since independence from Yugoslavia, and went on to become one of the most successful national teams in the decades to follow. The only other nation that can match Croatia’s recent record of reaching at least the semi-final stage at the World Championship is current title holders France – since 2003, Croatia have made it to the medal round five times, and on the occasions they did not, they finished no lower than sixth.


It is only the fourth-place finish at France 2017 that tarnishes this semi-final record ever so slightly, as if they had won the match for bronze versus Slovenia, it would have meant Croatia had never reached the penultimate stage without winning a medal. In 2003 it was gold, in 2005 and 2009 it was silver, and in 2013 it was bronze. Croatia also boast an incredible record in other competitions, having won four Olympic medals in five participations, including gold on their debut in 1996. At the most recent Games, Rio 2016, they finished with their lowest rank, fifth.


At the EURO, Croatia contested every semi-final between 2004 and 2016, winning bronze twice (2012 and 2016) and silver twice (2008 and 2010). This run unfortunately came to an end at the home European championship in January 2018, which was a significant disappointment given the high expectations from the entire nation.


Croatia therefore entered the European qualification for the 2019 World Championship highly motivated to return to their best, earning a dominant victory in the two-leg play-off versus Montenegro – 32:19 in the first match at home and 31:32 in Montenegro for an aggregate result of 63:51 in their favour.


Croatia’s squad is comprised entirely of players from highly competitive club teams. One major question will be the fitness of superstar Domagoj Duvnjak, who has been plagued by injury for years but is one of the best in the world when at his best. Though Duvnjak can certainly inspire the squad to greater heights, they will not lack power, talent or experience if the centre back cannot take the court at Germany/Denmark 2019.


Croatia can count on a tall back court of powerful shooters, such as Luka Stepancic, smart playmakers like Luka Cindric and Igor Karacic, and precise, fast wings including Manuel Strlek and Zlatko Horvat. In the goal, coach Lino Cervar has a world-class line-up of choices, though Ivan Stevanovic has been the favoured number one in recent years. Rising through the ranks are the likes of SEHA League 2017/18 top scorer Halil Jaganjac, who made his debut in the senior squad at the EURO 2018 at the age of 19 (20-years-old at GER/DEN 2019) and fits perfectly into the towering back-court line-up at a height of two metres.


With legendary Cervar back at the helm, since before the home EURO in January 2018, expectations remain high that Croatia will be one to watch at GER/DEN 2019 – and those expectations are deserved.


Fans can follow Croatia on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


Group at Germany/Denmark 2019
Group B: Croatia, Spain, FYR Macedonia, Iceland, Bahrain, Japan


Games at Germany/Denmark 2019
All times local


Friday 11 January Iceland vs Croatia (18:00)
Saturday 12 January Croatia vs Japan (16:30)
Monday 14 January Croatia vs FYR Macedonia (18:00)
Tuesday 15 January Croatia vs Bahrain (18:00)
Thursday 17 January Spain vs Croatia (20:30)

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Photo: Croatian Handball Federation