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SPORTS


 

General:

Croatia is proud to have so many successful athletes and teams. Let us introduce you to the most famous names and successes of Croatian sports in it's history...

Football:

This is, certainly, Croatia's most popular sport. It' began developing in the beginning of the 20th century, and Croatian football federation was formed in 1912. Croatian teams and players played in the league of former Yugoslavia with the exception of 1941-1945 when Croatian league existed for five years.

Despite the privileges that the other clubs had, Croatian clubs, especially Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb (now called Croatia) were always on top having not just sports, but a certain political value, being a way of expressing Croatian nationality. In addition to many domestic titles, Dinamo Zagreb won the Fairs cup (now called UEFA cup) in 1967.

Croatian players also participated in the national team successes. Drazen Jerkovic was the best scorer of the World Championship in Chile (1966), and the names of Bernard Vukas, Josip Skoblar, and others are written in all football history books.

Nowadays, Croatia has it's own league with twelve teams, which are participating in the Europan cups. But, the most important is that Croatia has a national team, which played the first match against USA in October, 1990. In just eight years, Croatia grew up into one of the world's football forces. National team's reputation was built in EURO '96 qualifying group with beating Italy, then by good presentation in England '96, but most of all, by amazing success on the World championship in France '98 where they've won third place, being just a step from the finals.

The names of Croatian players are known to all football fans in the world: The best scorer of the WC, Davor Suker plays for Real Madrid, just like Robert Jarni. Zvonimir Boban is the AC Milan's star, Alen Boksic after Marseille and Juventus, now resides in Lazio, while Robert Prosinecki, who played in both Real and Barcelona, heads Croatia Zagreb. Also, there are many young players that are close to becoming famous players: Dario Simic, Silvio Maric, Igor Tudor...

Basketball:

This is sport is probably the one with most successes and talents for our country. Our clubs dominated the championship in the former Yugoslavia, primarily Cibona Zagreb, but also Jugoplastika Split (now called just Split) and Zadar. Nevertheless, our teams were successful in the European club competitions. The biggest successes were European champions titles of Cibona in years '85 and '86, while Split was the champion in '89, '90, and '91. Also, Cibona was two times Cup winners cup champion ('82 and '87) and once Radivoj Korac's cup champion ('72) while Split won the Korac's cup two times ('76 and '77). To describe the domination of Croatian clubs in Yugoslavian domestic competitions, let's just say that Croatian clubs won eight out of ten last championships (from '82 - '91).

The national team was very successfull in years:

  • Olympic Games: Moscow '80 - gold medal
  • World Championships: 1970, 1978, 1990 - gold medals
  • European Championships: 1973, 1975,1977,1989,1991 - gold medals
Croatian players were always the leaders: Cosic, Jerkov, Knego, Nakic, Solman, then later D. Petrovic, Kukoc, Radja, Vrankovic...

Croatian championship and cup was established in '92, and Croatia has two teams in European league. The Croatian national team was formed in '92, when they've made the biggest success in history of Croatian basketball, reaching the finals of Olympic games '92. Of course, they couldn't go further, facing the best team ever made: Dream Team I. After a tragical death of Drazen Petrovic, Croatia won third place on EC in Munich '93, then repeated that at the WC in Toronto next year, and at the EC '95 in Athens.

Talking of the Croatian players, one man deserves a chapter for himself. Drazen Petrovic, born in Sibenik, is considered the best European player ever, something like "European Michael Jordan". He started in Sibenik, and with just 18 years, led his team to the championship title which was later taken away. Then he moved to Cibona and led them to two straight titles in Europe, played an excellent season in Real Madrid, and went to NBA, being of the best scorers in the league playing for New Jersey Nets (before that for Portland Trail Blazers). He was also a true basketball and spiritual leader to the national team in it's beginnings. Drazen died in road accident in Germany, 1993. His statue was placed in the Olympic park in Lausanne.

Kresimir Cosic, another famous player, resides in Hall of fame, Toni Kukoc, won three European titles with Jugoplastika Split, and then three NBA titles with Chicago Bulls, being a part of a, probably, best NBA team ever. Dino Radja also made a great NBA career in Boston Celtic, and two more Croatians, Zan Tabak and Stojko Vrankovic, played in the best league of the world. Other Croatian players, like Arijan Komazec, are very much known and respected all over Europe.

Handball:

Croatia was always one of the biggest handball forces in the world. Croatian clubs were the first in former Yugoslavia, just like the athletes were the ones to carry national team. The biggest successes those years are connected to the Olympics. On the first appearance of handball on the Olympics, Yugoslavia won the gold medal (Munchen '72 - Arslanagic, Horvat, Zorko, Miljak...). just like in Los Angeles '84 (Basic, Jurina, Zorko). Also, the team won the WC gold in '86, headed by two Croatians, Saracevic and Smajlagic. Partizan Bjelovar won the Champions cup in '71, and women club Kras won the EHF cup in '91.

In independent Croatia, the national team won the bronze at the EC in Portugal, silver at the WC in Iceland '95, and the first gold for Croatia at the Olympic games in Atlanta '96. The club Badel 1862 Zagreb was two times Europan champion ('92 and '93), and also three times played in the finals. Most of these successes are made by famous players: Patrik Cavar, Irfan Smajlagic, Zlatko Saracevic, Valter Matosevic, Goran Perkovac, Iztok Puc, Slavko Goluza, Ratko Tomljanovic, Nenad Kljajic, and others. Women club Podravka from Koprivnica won one European championship '96, and year before played in the finals.

Also, it has to be mentioned, that Croatia will host the European handball championship for men in 2000. It will be a great opportunity for another handball success and a promotion of our country.

Tennis:

Croatia was always a homeland of good tennis players. The names of Boro Jovanovic, Zeljko Franulovic, Nikola Pilic were famous in '70s, Bruno Oresar and Goran Prpic were good in '80s, while the best Croatian player ever, Goran Ivanisevic, dominates in '90s. He's best ranking was second place, several times, he won more than twenty tournament titles, and played three times in the Wimbledon finals. He was also a permanent member of TOP 10 from '92 to '96. He is known by a powerful serve and also very popular with tennis fans because of the way he fights for every ball in his matches. In 2006 Croatia won the Davis Cup with Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic.

The ladies are also good, and the best things is yet to come. Iva Majoli is only 21, and has already been a member of TOP 10 for a long time, and another young talent, Mirjana Lucic, who is only 16, still has a lot of place and time to progress in the world of tennis.

Other sports:

Croatia had many good boxers in past, best of those were Mate Parlov, Marijan Benes, and Zeljko Mavrovic. Zeljko is still fighting, and he was undefeated for five years of his professional career. He was the European champion and defended that title for five times, and then lost the fight with Lennox Lewis for the world title in '98.

We were always successful in water sports, like swimming and waterpolo. The Croatian waterpolo league is probably the best in the world, and Mladost, just like Jadran won the European title in '90s. Also, Croatian national team won silver at the Olympics '96.

One of the best Croatian athletes ever, Matija Ljubek, was very successfull in Cayak-canoe, bringing the Olympic medals in '70s and '80s.

Best Croatian table tennis player, Zoran Primorac, is one of the best in the world, for many years, and he keeps winning medals on EC's and WC's.

Croatia also has a skiing champion, Janica Kostelic, who has won 6 Olympic medals (four gold and two silver) in Salt Lake City 2002 and Torino 2006.

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