20210723 Zagreb 2000Px
EHF Champions League

Zagreb want to get back on track

EHF / Danijela Vekić

HC PPD Zagreb are still on top of Croatian handball. After a somewhat disappointing European season they are aiming for the play-offs in the new EHF Champions League season with new names in the squad.

The Croatian champions are going into their 28th season, more than any other club. The team led by Ivica Obrvan will have an interesting new season playing for three trophies.

Main facts

  • head coach Ivica Obrvan took over in February 2021, the team’s third coach that season after Igor Vori and Vlado Šola
  • Filip Ivić, Sandro Obranović and Jakov Gojun are returning to Zagreb after years abroad
  • other reinforcements include three-time CL winner Ivan Čupić and Željko Musa
  • 28 appearances in 29 CL seasons make Zagreb the all-time record holders
  • Zagreb will play domestic Croatian league from start for first time since 2010/11

Most important question: Can Zagreb advance to the play-offs?

Zagreb’s main goal last couple of seasons was to advance further than the group phase but failed to do that, with the exception of last season, when they lost 14 matches but still advanced as all 16 participants did.

This season will be something different as big names will bring their experience to the game: Ivan Čupić, Jakov Gojun, Sandro Obranovic and Željko Musa are returning to Croatia to lead the Croatian champions in the challenging Group A.

The goalkeeper duo now consists of two 1992-born familiar faces: Filip Ivic arrived from Celje and Dino Slavic from Ademar Leon, backed by experienced Radivoje Ristanovic.

“Our main objective is to progress and to pass the group phase of the EHF Champions League. We have formed a new team with well-known handball names together with the best young Croatian players. I believe it will result in a good combination. We are aware it is a difficult task and that the last two seasons were not as we planned,” says club director Vedran Supukovic.

Team captain David Mandic can’t wait for the first match and is aware of strong opponents waiting for them in Group A.

“I am most looking forward to the first match because we are creating a new strong team. Out of all seven opponents I can’t wait to play against Kiel and our national team captain Domagoj Duvnjak.”

Under the spotlight: Sandro Obranović

Left back Sandro Obranović is coming back to Zagreb after five years abroad. He started his handball journey in Karlovac and spent three years in Zagreb, from 2013 until 2016. He gained experience in Szeged, Chambery and Brest. With his style of play he can become a great asset to the team. Head coach Ivica Obvran knows him well as they were together in Chambery.

“Zagreb have a strong team for the new season and I’m happy I will be a part of it. Zagreb will be similar as it was in the past: a mixture of young and experienced players.”

How they rate themselves

Season 2021/22 marks a new beginning for the ‘Lions’. Zagreb, with their new European goal, are joining the Croatian league from the start, after only playing the play-offs for the past 10 years, like RK Nexe.

The additional matches might be beneficial to the newly formed team, with MOL-Pick Szeged, THW Kiel, Vardar 1961, Aalborg Håndbold, Meshkov Brest, Montpellier HB and Elverum as opponents.
“We are used to playing against the best teams in Europe and we see our chance to advance from the group phase this season. Our history, our legacy with our motivation that doesn’t fade, pushes us forward,” says Supukovic.

“Zagreb are a great club and I hope I will contribute to make a step forward in this year’s edition of the biggest club competition We want to show Zagreb in their best possible way,” Mandic adds.

Did you know?

Zagreb is a record participant in the EHF Champions League with 28 seasons, but they hold another record in Croatia.

Since the country’s independence in 1991, Zagreb won all 29 national championships and 27 cup trophies, making for 56 out of a possible 58 titles in Croatia. The series was only interrupted by Metkovic in 2001 and 2002.

Fun fact: Ivica Obrvan was the head coach of Metkovic when they took those titles.

What the numbers say

Zagreb will boast more experience on court than last season: the average age of the squad has gone up from 25.6 to 27.04 years. It is the saying – experience comes with age and experience is Zagreb’s second name this season.

Arrivals and departures

Newcomers: Ivan Čupić (RK Vardar), Željko Musa (SC Magdeburg), Filip Ivić (RK Celje Pivovarna Laško), Dino Slavić (Abanca Ademar Leon), Karpo Sirotić (MRK Sesvete), Sandro Obranović (HC Meshkov Brest), Jakov Gojun (Fuchse Berlin), Edin Klis (RK Sloboda), Adin Faljić (RK Krivaja)

Left the club: Nemanja Obradović (RK Eurofarm Pelister), Senjamin Burić (Skjern Handbold), Todor Jandrić (US Creteil Handball), Matej Ašanin (Die Eulen Ludwigshafen), Darko Stojnić (Tatabanya KC), Paolo Kraljević (HRK Gorica), Ivan Laljek (HRK Gorica), Aleks Vlah (RK Celje Pivovarna Laško)

Past achievements

EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2021/22 season): 28
Runners-up (4): 1994/95, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99
Semi-final (1): 1999/00
Quarter-final (7): 2000/01, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2008/09, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2015/16
Play-offs (1): 2020/21
Last 16 (5): 2005/06, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2016/17, 2018/19
Main Round (1): 2007/08
Group Phase (8): 1993/94, 1995/96, 2004/05, 2006/07, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2017/18, 2019/20

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Runners-up: 2004/05, Semi-final: 2006/07

(IHF) European Champions Cup: 2 titles (1991/92, 1992/93)

SEHA League: 1 title (2013)
Croatian league: 29 titles (1992-2019, 2021)
Croatian cup: 27 titles (1991-2000, 2003-2019, 2021)

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