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Date: 9/25/2017

One week prior to throw-off in Women’s EHF EURO 2018 qualification, Croatia announced a change in head coach, with Nenad Sostaric replacing Goran Mrdjen. Sostaric, who also participates in the IHF Traveller Coach programme, returns to the position after leading the Croatia women’s team twice previously, including when they achieved their best-ever World Championship rank of sixth, in 1997. He will be joined by Snježana Petika as his assistant coach.


Sostaric’s assumption of the position takes place four months after he led HC Lokomotiva Zagreb to their maiden European title, as they won the EHF Challenge Cup with a commanding performance in the two-leg final against Swedish side H 65 Höörs HK.


“We have agreed from the start that we will choose the best players. We are not interested in whether they are young or old. However, given the objective circumstances and personal circumstances, it will be a young team again,” says Sostaric of the national team as they prepare to take on Switzerland and Ukraine in the first rounds of European championship qualification without big-name stars such as Andrea Penezic, who is out due to injury, and Miranda Tatari, retired from the national side. Alongside Switzerland and Ukraine, Croatia will face current world and European champions Norway in the quest for a ticket to the EURO in France.


“In front of us are the European Championship qualifications, which are not so easy. We are in the group with Norway, Ukraine and Switzerland. We will not lie, Norway is a favourite. In theory, our matches with Ukraine, provided that we all win both games against Switzerland, will decide if we are going to the EURO. 


“What is important is that we qualify for the European Championships so these younger players will start collecting great competition experience and find a new position in the national team. We want to get up.”


Sostaric will act as head coach of Croatia alongside his club responsibilities with Lokomotiva, which is not an easy balancing act:


“At this point I've been thinking a lot about whether to be part of the national team because we have a lot of work in the club and I work as a lecturer, but I think all of us who are in handball, especially women's handball, have to blow in the same sail and must be ready to help. We have to fight. We have to go step-by-step and build everything. First through Switzerland and Ukraine, and later on Norway and however long it takes after that,” says Sostaric, before commenting on the one competition that has so far eluded the Croatia women’s national team – the Olympic Games, for which they have yet to qualify.


“Of course, I would like to come to the Olympics one day. I participated in all competitions except for the Olympic Games and it would be the realisation of all dreams. Nobody can forbid us to dream, and it is up to us to give our best and train ourselves to make that dream come true.”


Croatia’s qualification matches again Switzerland and Ukraine, to be played on September 27 and October 1, respectively, will be streamed live and free to watch on ehfTV