Croatia pull off big coup to appoint Dagur Sigurdsson

29 Feb. 2024

Croatia pull off big coup to appoint Dagur Sigurdsson

After finishing on the 11th place at the EHF EURO 2024, their worst placement since 2002, Croatia swiftly moved over and appointed Dagur Sigurdsson as the new coach of the national men’s team, the first-ever foreign coach of the European powerhouse.

Sigurdsson will be the fourth coach in the last three years for Croatia, after Lino Cervar was replaced by Hrvoje Horvat in 2021, while Goran Perkovac took over in 2023, after Croatia finished on the ninth place at the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship.

"I was looking for a challenge and an adventure, something with passion. Everything came together. This is definitely a big challenge for me. I'm looking forward to it. We have two challenging weeks ahead of us with a lot of work. I watched Croatia at the European Championship. There are a lot of young but experienced players. The challenge is to find a balance between them. I'm ambitious and enthusiastic. We have a lot of work to do, but I think I'll do a good job," said Sigurdsson during a press conference in Zagreb, after his appointment has been made official.

Sigurdsson, a former centre back who featured 215 times and scored 399 goals for Iceland, was Japan men’s national team coach between 2017 and 2024, leading the national team to three editions of the IHF Men’s World Championship, while also qualifying Japan for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

"We negotiated with different coaches. We came to the point that for the first time in history we have a foreign coach. The negotiations lasted, there were technical obstacles to the realisation of cooperation. Sigurdsson had a contract with Japan and until it was terminated, we could not negotiate more seriously. We managed to solve all the obstacles and finally agree that he will be the coach of the national team,” said the President of the Croatia Handball Federation (HRS), Tomislav Grahovac.

The 50-year-old coach started his career at A1 Bregenz, in Austria, led the Austria men’s national team between 2008 and 2010, as well as Germany’s national team between 2014 and 2017. 

Sigurdsson also was Füchse Berlin’s coach between 2009 and 2015 and won the gold medal with Germany at the EHF EURO 2016 and the bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

"You can't copy others, there are a lot of different players to fit in. The best coaches are the most flexible, able to change tactics. It's all a matter of balance, how to reduce rotation. I'm excited to bring my philosophy and way of playing. I have a pretty clear idea of how I want to let Croatia play. Let's not forget that we are chasing strong teams like Denmark, Sweden or Norway," added Croatia’s new coach.

The first challenge for Sigurdsson will be to qualify Croatia for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. There are two tickets available from the Olympic Qualification Tournament #2, which will take place in Hanover, Germany. Croatia will face two of Sigurdsson’s former teams, Germany and Austria, as well as Algeria between 14 and 17 March.

Photo credit: Croatia Handball Federation