Croatia national handball team

The Croatia national handball team represents Croatia in international men's team handball competitions and friendly matches. The handball team is controlled by the Croatian Handball Federation.

NicknameKauboji (English: The Cowboys)
AssociationCroatian Handball Federation
CoachLino Červar
Assistant coachSilvio Ivandija
Igor Vori
CaptainDomagoj Duvnjak
Most capsIgor Vori (246)
Most goalsMirza Džomba (667)
Summer Olympics
Appearances5 (First in 1996)
Best result (1996, 2004)
World Championship
Appearances13 (First in 1995)
Best result (2003)
European Championship
Appearances13 (First in 1994)
Best result (2008, 2010)
Last updated on Unknown.
Croatia national handball team
Medal record
Olympic Games
1996 AtlantaTeam
2004 AthensTeam
2012 LondonTeam
World Championship
2003 Portugal
1995 Iceland
2005 Tunisia
2009 Croatia
2013 Spain
European Championship
2008 Norway
2010 Austria
1994 Portugal
2012 Serbia
2016 Poland
Mediterranean Games
1993 Languedoc-Rousillon
1997 Bari
2001 TunisTeam
2018 TarragonaTeam
2005 AlmeríaTeam
2013 MersinTeam

Croatia has often been portrayed[1] as an international force in handball, having won two Olympic gold medals and one World Championship, but never winning the Euros, having lost two finals, one to rivals France and the other to Scandinavian handball team Denmark. The Croatian handball team that won the 1996 Olympic Gold medal was often credited as the biggest upset in history of handball, with handball making its debut appearance.[2] The Croatian national team won a so-called "international double" after winning both the gold medal at the Olympics (2004) and the World Championships (2003), beating Germany in both finals.

Croatia's handball team has often been labelled[3] as a model for sport, often being the replacement for Romania in Europe's "Big Three" in handball, alongside France and Denmark.[4] Some of their biggest rivals are neighbors Slovenia, Hungary and Serbia. Germany are also called rivals of the handball team, although matches between Germany and Croatia have been met with Croatian dominance, Germany only winning once in their nine meetings, and Croatia winning seven times. Mediterranean side Spain have also been called as close rivals, having played 23 games with them, the most out of any sides the Croatians have played with in handball. However, the French are often remarked as Croatia's biggest-ever rival in handball, due to both countries' success. In recent history though, Croatia often suffered eliminations at the hands of the French .[5]


Handball in Austria-Hungary monarchy (1904–1918)

The word handball in the Croatian region was first used by Franjo Bučar, describing the German game Schleuderball in the journal Sokol 1904. The earliest documented forms of playing handball in these areas appear in 1911 in the gymnasium of Pazin, which is among other things due to the fact that programs for education in Istria, as part of the then Austrian coast, coming from the education center in Graz. In Croatia, at the time handball was in high school programs closing ceremony. It was a kind of Czech handball extended from the Czech Republic, where it was adopted by the Osijek and Vukovar students from Prague.[6]

Between the two world wars (1918–1941)

In the early beginnings of the Croatian handball, venues played field handball and handball. Students were still more attracted to field handball, because the little handball were played on makeshift courts without the right door, as opposed to the field handball, which is played on the existing football fields.[7] During the Kingdom of Yugoslavia first public handball match in the Croatian region was played and in the wider neighborhood. It was played in a high school in Varaždin 29 May 1930 under the guidance of physical education teachers Zvonimir Šuligoj. Since that game, until 1950, in Croatia and Yugoslavia publicly played exclusively field handball, on the football field with eleven players on each side. In high school in Zagreb on 1 June 1935, opened the first handball courts in Yugoslavia.[8]

The establishment of Croatian Handball Federation and the first Croatian national team (1941–1945)

At the beginning of World War II Kingdom of Yugoslavia disintegrated. Most of the territory inhabited by Croats on 10 April 1941, it became part of the newly formed Independent State of Croatia (NDH). As part of the new state on 2 October 1941 in Zagreb for the first time in history the Croatian Handball Federation (HRS) was established.[9] The place of foundation is recorded to be at the Croatian Sports home in Jurišićeva, Zagreb. HRS is the umbrella organization of handball in the ISC coordinated the work of a dozen clubs and until 1944 organized national championships. In the state of NDH was established the first Croatian handball team. The first training for practice-match team NDH was held on 12 October 1941 between the two teams selected from the head coach Dragutin Pehe. His first and only international match this team played on 14 June 1942 with Hungary in Budapest where they lost 0:9. This field handball match was played in front of 30,000 spectators at the then NEP Stadium (since 2002 Ferenc Puskás Stadium) was a prelude meeting of the football teams of the same name.[10] The best handball player in the field was the goalkeeper Branko Kralj. Under the direction of the coach Ante Škrtić, the players for Croatia were Vlado Abramović, Irislav Dolenec, Žarko Galetović, Zvonko Leskovar, Todor Marinov, Viktor Medved, Krešo Pavlin, Vlado Šimanović Stjepan Širić, Josip Žitnik and reserve goalkeeper Zdenko Šurina. HRS stopped functioning in 1944 because of the war in World War II.[11]

Handball in SFR Yugoslavia (1945–1991)

When the 1945 World War II ended, the territory of the Independent State of Croatia was included in the newly established SFR Yugoslavia.

Immediately after that began the reconstruction of the war abandoned handball in Yugoslavia, and that same year founded the Committee for handball Gymnastics Association Croatian, and in May 1948 the Committee for handball Gymnastics Association of Yugoslavia. Operation HRS is restored on 19 December 1948, in which he, in accordance with the national policy of the new Yugoslav state, name changed in the Croatian Handball Association (RSH). Handball Federation of Yugoslavia (RSJ) was established on 17 December 1949 in Belgrade by pooling national and provincial associations, and it became a member of the International Handball Federation (IHF) in 1950.[12]

After the end of World War II, most field handball players of NDH completed courses and became instructors or referees in handball. Some of them have become members of the field handball national team of Yugoslavia and played in its first international match, played on 19 June 1950 at the stadium in Stadion Kranjčevićeva in Zagreb, against Belgium. Yugoslavia won 18:3 playing with nine players from Zagreb, one from Split and one from Sarajevo.[13]

Since the end of World War II until the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, the best Croatian handball players in field and team handball played for the national team of Yugoslavia. With this national team Croatians have performed at 17 major competitions and won seven medals. These are two Olympic gold medals, the Olympic bronze, world gold, world silver and two bronze world. Among the other famous trophy, in this period they won 5 gold medals in five appearances at the Mediterranean Games (1967, 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1991), two gold and one bronze medal at the World Cups held in 1971, 1974 and 1984 in Sweden, 2 bronze medals at handball Super League held in 1981 and 1983 in Germany and silver at the 1990 goodwill Games in Seattle.

At the World Junior Championship in 1987 in Rijeka there was created a nucleus generation that will define the nineties and bring some of the most beautiful handball stories for the Croatian national team. Alvaro Načinović, Iztok Puc, Vladimir Jelčić and other predominantly have won this championship playing for Yugoslavia, and their talent and knowledge are later incorporated as seniors in the first Croatian success after independence of the country.[14]

Place Croatians in the team of Yugoslavia[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35] Croatian head coaches
10th place at WC 1952Irislav Dolenec (player)Ivan Snoj / Irislav Dolenec
5th place at WC 1955.Irislav Dolenec (player), Stjepan KorbarIvan Snoj / Irislav Dolenec
8th place at WC 1958Jerolim Karadža, Lovro Manestar, Božidar Peter, Zlatko Šimenc?, Ivan ŠpoljarićIvan Snoj
9th place at SP 1961.Anton Bašić, Ivan Đuranec, Zvonko Jandroković, Jerolim Karadža, Božidar Peter,[36] Zlatko Šimenc?Ivan Snoj
6th place at WC 1964Vojislav Bjegović, Vinko Dekaris, Ivan Đuranec, Lujo Györy, Jerolim Karadža, Zvonko Kocijan, Josip Milković, Vladimir Vićan, Albin Vidović, Zlatko ŽagmešterIvan Snoj
7th place at WC 1967Vinko Dekaris, Ivan Đuranec, Hrvoje Horvat, Jerolim Karadža, Branko Klišanin, Josip Milković, Miroslav Pribanić, Dobrivoje Selec, Ninoslav Tomašić, Ivan Uremović,[37] Vladimir VićanIvan Snoj / Irislav Dolenec
Gold medal at MG 1967Hrvoje Horvat, Miroslav Klišanin, Josip Milković, Ivan Uremović, Albin VidovićIvan Snoj / Vlado Štencl
Bronze medal at WC 1970Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Marijan Jakšeković, Dragutin Mervar, Josip Milković, Miroslav Pribanić, Zlatko ŽagmešterIvan Snoj / Vlado Štencl
Gold medal at WC 1971Ivan Snoj
Gold medal at OG 1972Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Miroslav Pribanić, Dobrivoje Selec, Albin Vidović, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Vlado Štencl
Bronze medal at WC 1974Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Zvonimir Serdarušić, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Josip Milković
Gold medal at WC 1974Ivan Snoj
Gold medal at MG 1975Abas Arslanagić, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Miroslav Pribanić, Zvonimir Serdarušić, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj
5th place at OG 1976Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Zvonimir Serdarušić, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Pero Janjić
5th place at WC 1978[38]Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Zvonimir Serdarušić,[39] Željko Vidaković, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Zdravko Malić
Gold medal at MG 1979Pavle Jurina, Željko Vidaković, Zdravko Zovko, Željko Zovko
6th place OG 1980Pavle Jurina, Stjepan Obran
Bronze medal SC 1981
Silver medal at WC 1982Mirko Bašić, Pavle Jurina, Stjepan Obran, Zdravko Zovko
Bronze medal SC 1983
Gold medal at MG 1983Mirko Bašić, Pavle Jurina, Stjepan Obran, Željko Vidaković, Zdravko Zovko
Bronze medal at SC 1984
Gold medal at OG 1984Mirko Bašić, Pavle Jurina, Zdravko Zovko / Abas Arslanagić (GK coach)
Gold medal at WC 1986Mirko Bašić, Zlatko Saračević / Abas Arslanagić (GK coach and fitness coach)
Bronze medal at OG 1988Mirko Bašić, Boris Jarak, Alvaro Načinović, Goran Perkovac, Iztok Puc, Zlatko Saračević, Irfan SmajlagićAbas Arslanagić
4th place at WC 1990[40][41]Mirko Bašić, Nenad Kljaić, Iztok Puc, Zlatko Saračević, Irfan Smajlagić, Ratko Tomljanović
Silver medal at GG 1990[42][43]Patrik Ćavar, Bruno Gudelj, Nenad Kljaić
Gold medal at MG 1991Tomislav Farkaš, Valter Matošević

Modern Croatian national handball team (1991–present)

Official formation and first competitions (1991–1996)

Croatia on 30 May 1990 began the process of creating the independent state, and soon established and modern Croatian handball team. The first international match of the Croatian handball team was played on 14 January 1991 in Zagreb, in Kutija Šibica. It was a friendly match with Japan which ended in a draw 23:23. The team was coached by Josip Milković with assistant coach Lino Červar and the players were Patrik Čavar, Tonči Peribonio, Vlado Šola, Ivica Obrvan, Nenad Kljaić, Iztok Puc, Ratko Tomljanović, Bruno Gudelj, Željko Zovko, Stjepan Obran, Tomislav Farkaš, Robert Ipša, Ivo Glavinić and Goran Stojanović.[44] The dissolution of Yugoslavia that followed, Croatia gained full independence on 8 October 1991 the Croatian Handball Association (RSH) in 1992 restored the original name of the Croatian Handball Federation (HRS), and on 10 April 1992 became a member of the International Handball Federation (IHF), and 23 July 1992 members of the European Handball Federation (EHF).[45]

Taking fourth place at the 1990 World Championship in Czechoslovakia the Yugoslav national team was placed among the nine best teams of the tournament, which acquired them the right to participate in the upcoming 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Because of the war and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, this team was disqualified, and should it was supposed to be specified who will replaced them in the games. Since the Croatian Olympic Committee (COC) was provisionally recognized on 17 January 1992 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and since Croatia had already on 22 May 1992 become a member of the United Nations, Croatian handball players had conditions to perform at the Olympic Games in 1992.[46] This unfortunately did not happen. Although Croatia in terms of game was handball superpower, it was decided that Yugoslavia would be replaced by Iceland at the games as they finished tenth at the 1990 World Championship.[47] Adverse effects of certain officials in the IOC prevented even the option of maintaining an additional qualifying tournament like the one held for the Croatian basketball players. Croatia also missed the 1993 World Championship in Sweden, because the World Championship in 1990 was an elimination tournament for this championship.

The following years, in spite of the short history of the country brought the Croatian team very significant results in important competitions. Croatia won its first official competition at the Mediterranean Games in 1993 in Languedoc-Roussillon, France, Croatia won gold. At the first ever European Championship in 1994 held in Portugal the team was led by Zdravko Zovko they won their first medal at this first major international competition. The group stage ended with Croatia finishing behind then powerful Russians, but in front of the French, led by the famous Jackson Richardson. In the semi finals, the Swedes were better and Croatia played the third place match and won in a dramatic match against Denmark. Sweden won the tournament demolishing the Russians in the final with 13 points.[48] A year later at the 1995 World Championships in Iceland Croatia relatively went easily from group stage to the quarter final where there was brought a rarely seen drama. Tunisia was defeated after penalty shootout. Then the team beat Egypt in the quarter finals and Sweden national handball team in the semi finals. In the final they the French were too big an obstacle for Zovko guys won their first Croatian World Championship silver medal.[49] Sweden won the bronze defeating Germany. The next year at the European Championship in 1996 in Spain, Croatia, was led by Abas Arslanagić. Croatia lost took fifth place with victory over the Czech Republic where the match was led by Vladimir Nekić because Arslanagić quit after Croatia failed to enter the semi-finals. The championship was won by Russia.[50]

Gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics

On the second Olympics in which Croatian athletes performed under the banner of the Croatian flag and won their first gold medal. This was won by the athletes who were least expected to win it, handball players. They were sent off to Atlanta without hope, because at the European Championship in 1996 they had finished in a weak fifth place, and relations in the national team were bad. Coach Abas Arslanagić quit during the end of the European championship and the national handball selection was filled with confrontation and fights. 38 days before the Olympic Games, the team was taken over by coach Velimir Kljaić, whose statement: "Will go back swimming if we don't win a medal" no one took seriously.

Before the Olympics there were still problems. Preliminary matches didn't offer much optimism. A few days before the start of the handball tournament a friendly encounter with Algeria was not played to the end. The Croatian players left the court because the Algerians went too far with their abusive playing and hurt three players, Goran Perkovac, Slavko Goluža and Nenad Kljaić.[51]

The opening match of the Olympic games against Switzerland was tough. A victory was achieved in an already lost match. The Swiss led by as much as 6 goals, but then the goal was kept safe with a superb save from Venio Losert who just during the Olympic Games celebrated his 20th birthday. Making it a minimal victory, scoring in the 55th second before the end of the match, Patrik Ćavar brought a stellar victory.

The next two matches against Kuwait and hosts United States were easy victories. This was followed by the decisive encounter to enter the semi-finals, where there were only the two first-placed teams from each group.

The match with the then current Olympic and European champions Russia had a shocking finale. The Russians were leading by four points, but the Croats were arriving. The last minute was not for the faint of heart, but from the Russian roulette though the Croats came out as winners. One her of this triumph for the semifinals was Valter Matošević. 40 seconds before the end of the match, when the result was 24:24, he defended a penalty shot from Torgovanov. Another hero was Božidar Jović, who just 3 seconds before the siren rang scored the winning goal.[52]

The last match in the group was with the Swedes. This was the one in which yoneou could choose an opponent in the semi-finals, but Kljun omitted Patrik Ćavar, Iztok Puc, Zlatko Saračević and Irfan Smajlagić from the match. Croatia was defeated with nine goals difference, but without their poker aces there wasn't much to expect. The defeat did not have larger significance, except that it took to save face. In the semifinals they waited for the French who were World Champions. Croatian handball showed the best possible way to respond to defeat in the final of the 1995 World Championship in Iceland. Engaged and disciplined, Croatian players did a great job and ensured the silver medal the same brightness as did the water polo team.[53]

In the grand finale again Croatia faced the Swedes. In the semifinals they defeated Spain, who later won the bronze medal. It was a great generation that only needed an Olympic gold medal to complete their collection. They probably hoped that Croatia was not with those who were missing against Sweden would not much raise the quality that they could be threatened. In the end their plans were foiled, and the Vikings failed to win. After starting 0: 1 followed by a brilliant game from the players Kljaić chose and the series of 6:1. The defense was solid and impenetrable and the attack varied and deadly. Perkovac great led his boys and Božidar Jović was the revelation of the tournament. Worried only in the final Zlatko Saračević was not playing properly, but Kljaić brought the perfect replacement, Zoran Mikulić. Although the Croatians twice led with seven goals difference, the second half offered drama. Swedes switched to defense 4–2 which created big problems. Decreased the difference and 6:30 minutes before the end came at just hit behind. Croatian handball players still in those crucial minutes they had never trembled hands.[54]

Thirty seconds before the end of the line player Nenad Kljaić scored a crucial goal for the final 27:26 and brought a glorious victory. With the sound of sirens was created indescribable celebration and parquet Georgia Dome in front of 25,000 visitors in the hall and millions of TV viewers, which is today known caterpillar gold handball. It was the biggest win in the history of Croatian sport. The handball players were not yet aware of this gold they had placed around his neck President of the Croatian Olympic Committee Antun Vrdoljak, who previously predicted 6 Atlanta medal and otherwise announced "As running from the day he was born" at Zagreb's main square. Still not running, but the handball players after returning from Atlanta to thousands of fans being greeted at the airport and on Jelačić Square. And they did the famous caterpillar crawl.[55]

Position Players
GoalkeepersValter Matošević, Venio Losert
Back playersZlatko Saračević, Goran Perkovac, Iztok Puc, Zoran Mikulić, Slavko Goluža, Bruno Gudelj, Valner Franković
Line playersNenad Kljaić, Alvaro Načinović, Božidar Jović
Wing playersIrfan Smajlagić, Patrik Ćavar, Vladimir Šujster, Vladimir Jelčić
Coaching staffVelimir Kljajić (Head coach), Milan Rončević (assistant and fitness coach), Zdenko Zorko (GK coach), Stanislav Peharec (Somatoped), Damir Suman (kinesiotherapists), Vladimir Nekić (tehniko), Josip Guberina (director)

A series of poor results (1996–2002)

After winning the Olympic gold medal on 4 August 1996 it was followed by a slow decline in the Croatian national team and the change of generations in which the handball players were far from winning a medal. It started when Croatia was knocked-out in the round of 16 of the World Championships. In Japan in 1997, Croatia was knocked out by Spain 31:25 and was ranked in 13th place. In Egypt 1999 they were knocked-out by Yugoslavia 30:23 leaving Croatia in 10th place. In France 2001 the national team would lose in the next round after two extra time (4 x 5 minutes) stopped Ukraine 37:34 (29: 29/33: 33) finishing in 9th place. At the European Championships in 1998, 2000 and 2002 finished in 8th, 6th and 16th place. Croatia in 2000 hosted the European Championship, they had high expectations from this tournament but they weren't fulfilled. After the defeat from Slovenia in the match for fifth place Croatia took only 6th place and failed to qualify for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The national team is also lost its ability to defend the gold from Atlanta in Sydney.

Červar era (2002–2010)

Once the team reached bottom with their results, being ranked last or in 16th place at the 2002 European Championship, in March 2002 the Federation entrusted Lino Červar and with him the team that suffered a seven-year drought medal in two years was created into the world champions and Olympic winners. In the period between these two gold medals Croatia is still ranked 4th place at the European Championships in 2004 in Slovenia. With Čevar in charge Croatia would be at the top of the handball world.[56]

Position Players
GoalkeepersVlado Šola, Valter Matošević, Mario Kelentrić
Back playersPetar Metličić, Ivano Balić, Blaženko Lacković, Slavko Goluža, Tonči Valčić
Line playersBožidar Jović, Renato Sulić, Igor Vori
Wing playersMirza Džomba, Nikša Kaleb, Vedran Zrnić, Goran Šprem
Defensive playersDenis Špoljarić, Davor Dominiković
Coaching staff[57]Lino Červar (Head coach), Irfan Smajlagić (Assistant coach), Mirko Bašić (GK coach), Josip Feldbauer (Doctor), Milorad Sakradžija (Fizioterapist), Antun Arić (Fizioterapist), Ivica Udovičić (tehniko), Ratko Balenović (Director)

With the arrival of Lino Červar and a maturing exceptionally talented new generation of with a young Ivano Balić the revival of the national team culminated at the 2003 World Championship. The start of the competition was disastrous. Croatia lost in their first match to Argentina who was at the time a punching for serious national teams in official competitions. Although the first half led with 5 goals, but 14 minutes before the end of the match conceded 6 goals. At the end of the match, Croatian handball players fired five successive attacks, and Mirza Džomba 20 seconds before the end missed the equalizer. How Croatian players badly played that match was proven by the fact they missed 6 penalty shots. During halftime of the second match against another underdog Saudi Arabia Croatia was losing with 2 differences and was playing desperately. Yet the team found strength to win this match.[58] The turning point was marvelous – the group's dramatic victories in the end against giants Russia, France and Hungary securing first place to the second part where the Croats were convincing against Egypt and Denmark. In semifinals the match went into overtime (4 x 5 minutes) defeating the Spaniards 39:37 (26: 26/31: 31) and in the grand final they outscored Germany 34:31 and won their first title of world champions and wrote surely one of the most beautiful story's in the history of Croatian sport.[59]

In January 2004 Croatia played at the 2004 European Championship in Slovenia. They got to the semifinals where they were knocked out by the hosts 25:27. They finished in fourth place losing the third place match to Denmark 27:31.

In Summer 2004 the Olympics were held in Athens. The national team continued its dominating play and were undefeated in all eight matches played. They defeated Iceland, Slovenia, South Korea, Russia, Spain, Greece and Hungary before getting to the final. In a dramatic final Croatia defeated Germany 26–24 and with the title of world champions they won the Olympic gold. In the last 5 minutes of the match went a goal ahead for Croatia, and then Nikša Kaleb who had not scored no goal with 3 consecutive goals sealed a great victory. The gold was an even greater success considering the fact that Croatia traveled to Athens without their best line player Renato Sulić who was recovering from a car accident, without important defense player Tonči Valčić and without Patrik Ćavar who was ill.[60]

Position Players
GoalkeepersVlado Šola, Venio Losert, Valter Matošević
Back playersPetar Metličić, Ivano Balić, Blaženko Lacković, Slavko Goluža, Drago Vuković
Line playersIgor Vori
Wing playersMirza Džomba, Nikša Kaleb, Vedran Zrnić, Goran Šprem
Defensive playersDenis Špoljarić, Davor Dominiković
Coaching staff[61]Lino Červar (Head coach), Irfan Smajlagić (Assistant coach), Zdenko Zorko (GK coach), Miljenko Rak (Fitness coach), Milorad Sakradžija (Fizioterapist), Josip Feldbauer (Doctor), Stanislav Peharec (Somatoped), Davor Urek (Tehniko), Ivica Udovičić (Director)


Croatia has developed several handball rivalries. Their most played rivalry is against France, which is often considered to be the one of the biggest modern handball rivalry since the end of the Cold War, since Croatia,Denmark,Spain and France are the most successful nations in handball both in Europe and worldwide. Their second biggest rivalry is with neighbors Slovenia, whom they played 14 times, winning 9 games and losing 5. In recent years, a rivalry with Spain has also developed, sometimes called the Mediterranean derby. Other rivalries include Denmark, Poland, Germany, Serbia and Hungary.

The 2009 World Men's Handball Championship, hosted in Croatia, was remembered[62] for constant refereeing mistakes ( seen through Croatian eyes), through which France ultimately won the final against Croatia. The final was memorable[63] for starting the "curse of Arena Zagreb", in which many Croatian sports teams had lost finals in the Arena. Many had questioned the appointment of Danish referee Olesen Pedersen, who was remarked for his constant mistakes against several Croatian handball players, through which France won the final. After the final, the rivalry sparked more in Croatia, but later became a famous French phenomenon.

Results at international competitions

Prior to 1991 Croatia men's national handball team played as a part of Yugoslavia men's national handball team.

Croatia played its first match on 14 January 1991 against Japan which ended 23–23.

Medal count

Updated after 2019 World Handball Championship

Olympic Games 2013
World Championship 1315
European Championship 0235
Mediterranean Games 4206

     Champions       Runners-up       Third Place       Fourth Place  

Summer Olympics

World Championship

European Championship

Mediterranean Games

Year Round Position W D L GF GA GD
2009Did not compete

List of cities in which the games were played

City Pld W D L GF GA GD
Baia Mare11002522+3
Bruck an der Mur22005946+13
Ciudad Real5500135119+16
Drobeta-Turnu Severin11003025+5
Novi Sad31117570+5
Palaio Faliro6600179156+23
Rio Maior22006250+12
St. Gallen33009488+6


Current squad

Squad for the 2019 World Men's Handball Championship.[65][66]

Head coach: Lino Červar

No. Pos. Name Date of birth (age) Height App. Goals Club
1 GK Ivan Stevanović (1982-05-18) 18 May 1982 1.93 m 68 2 Kadetten Schaffhausen
5 CB Domagoj Duvnjak (1988-06-01) 1 June 1988 1.97 m 199 641 THW Kiel
7 RB Luka Stepančić (1990-11-20) 20 November 1990 2.03 m 80 198 Paris Saint Germain
11 RW Ivan Vida (1995-03-14) 14 March 1995 1.86 m 11 10 RK Nexe
13 RW Zlatko Horvat (1984-09-25) 25 September 1984 1.79 m 172 541 RK Zagreb
18 CB Igor Karačić (1988-11-02) 2 November 1988 1.89 m 74 174 RK Vardar
21 LB Alen Blažević (1986-09-29) 29 September 1986 1.99 m 22 8 Pick Szeged
26 LW Manuel Štrlek (1988-12-01) 1 December 1988 1.81 m 160 558 Telekom Veszprém
28 P Željko Musa (1986-01-08) 8 January 1986 2.00 m 118 101 SC Magdeburg
29 CB Lovro Jotić (1994-11-12) 12 November 1994 1.91 m 15 12 RK Zagreb
32 LB Ivan Slišković (1991-10-23) 23 October 1991 1.98 m 62 140 Frisch Auf Göppingen
33 CB Luka Cindrić (1993-07-05) 5 July 1993 1.82 m 59 139 PGE Vive Kielce
39 LW David Mandić (1997-09-14) 14 September 1997 1.87 m 18 55 RK Zagreb
44 P Krešimir Kozina (1990-06-25) 25 June 1990 1.96 m 32 32 Frisch Auf Göppingen
47 RB Jakov Vranković (1993-06-12) 12 June 1993 2.00 m 22 40 Tatabánya KC
53 P Marin Šipić (1996-04-29) 29 April 1996 1.90 m 16 34 RK Nexe
55 GK Marin Šego (1985-08-02) 2 August 1985 1.98 m 37 2 Pick Szeged
56 P Kristian Bećiri (1994-06-14) 14 June 1994 2.02 m 5 1 RK Celje
77 LB Damir Bičanić (1985-06-29) 29 June 1985 1.94 m 101 176 RK Zagreb

Coaching staff

As of 29 June 2019.

Staff Job title
Lino Červar Head coach
Silvio Ivandija Assistant coach
Igor Vori Assistant coach
Marko Markiš Goalkeeping coach
Pero Kuterovac Conditioning coach
Mirko Krolo Conditioning coach

Head coaches



Major tournaments

Minor tournaments

Medal-winning squads

Notable players


Record against other teams

As of 13 January 2019

Positive total balance (more wins)
Neutral total balance (equal W/L ratio)
Negative total balance (more losses)
National team Total Olympic Games World Championship European Championship Mediterranean Games Qualifications
Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L

Algeria 4301 0000 2200 1001 1100
Argentina 4301 1100 3201 0000
Australia 3300 0000 3300 0000
Austria 6600 0000 1100 1100 4400
Bahrain 2200 0000 0000 1100
Belarus 11920 0000 2200 3300 6420
Bosnia and
1100 0000 1100 0000 0000 0000
Brazil 3201 1100 1100 0000
Bulgaria 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
Chile 2200 0000 1100 1100
China 2200 1100 1100 0000
Cuba 3210 0000 3210 0000
Czech Republic 6501 0000 2101 2200 2200
Denmark 18909 3300 5203 9405 1001
Egypt 7601 0000 4400 3201 0000
Finland 4400 0000 0000 0000 4400
France 239113 5203 7403 10217 0000 0000
Germany 11713 1100 5311 4301 0000
Greece 6600 1100 0000 0000 3300 2200
Greenland 1100 0000 1100 0000
Hungary 171214 3300 7601 3111 4202
Iceland 8710 1100 1100 4310 3201
Iran 1100 0000 1100 0000
Italy 3300 0000 0000 0000 2200 0000
Japan 4400 0000 1100 2200
Kuwait 3300 1100 2200 0000
Latvia 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
Lithuania 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
Macedonia 6600 0000 1100 2200 0000 2101
Montenegro 8701 0000 0000 2200 0000 0000
Morocco 3300 0000 3300 0000 0000
Netherlands 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
Nigeria 1100 0000 1100 0000
Norway 171025 0000 3012 7511 3201
Poland 9702 2101 3201 4400 0000
Portugal 4211 0000 0000 2110 2101
Qatar 1001 1001 0000 0000
Romania 6600 0000 1100 1100 4400
Russia 16916 2200 6402 7214 1100
Saudi Arabia 2200 0000 2200 0000
Serbia * 12624 1100 3111 5203 1100 2110
Slovakia 5500 0000 1100 0000 4400
Slovenia 15906 1100 3201 5302 2101 4202
South Korea 5401 2200 3201 0000
Spain 251618 4301 10802 7214 1001 2200
Sweden 13715 2101 4301 3201 0000
Switzerland 3300 1100 0000 1100 0000
Tunisia 8800 2200 2200 2200 0000
Turkey 6600 0000 0000 0000 0000 6600
Ukraine 3201 0000 1001 2200 0000
United States 2200 1100 1100 0000
Total (51) 3292401475
* includes games against Serbia and Montenegro

Biggest wins

Double digit goal difference

Olympic Games World Championship European Championship Mediterranean Games Qualifications
  • +19 vs. Brasil (33–14) 2008
  • +11 vs. China (33–22) 2008
  • +11 vs. Denmark (32–21) 2012
  • +10 vs. South Korea (31–21) 2012
  • +29 vs. USA (41–12) 2001
  • +27 vs. Australia (42–15) 2011
  • +23 vs. Australia (36–13) 2013
  • +21 vs. Cuba (41–20) 2009
  • +20 vs. Argentina (38–18) 2011
  • +20 vs. Australia (38–18) 2005
  • +19 vs. Iran (41–22) 2015
  • +19 vs. Kuwait (40–21) 2009
  • +18 vs. South Korea (41–23) 2007
  • +15 vs. Chile (37–22) 2017
  • +14 vs. Egypt (30–16) 1995
  • +13 vs. Argentina (36–23) 2005
  • +13 vs. China (34–21) 1997
  • +13 vs. Marocco (35–22) 2007
  • +12 vs. Marocco (33–21) 1995
  • +11 vs. Algeria (31–20) 2013
  • +10 vs. Spain (32–22) 2009
  • +14 vs. Poland (37–23) 2016
  • +11 vs. Belarus (33–22) 2014
  • +10 vs. Macedonia (34–24) 2016
  • +10 vs. Serbia (32–22) 2018
  • +8 vs. Greece (33–25) 2005
  • +20 vs. Chile (35–15) 2012
  • +20 vs. Finland (34–14) 2010
  • +19 vs. Finland (39–20) 2010
  • +15 vs. Japan (37–22) 2008
  • +14 vs. Japan (36–22) 2012
  • +14 vs. Turkey (40–26) 2016
  • +13 vs. Slovakia (34–21) 2010
  • +12 vs. Greece (32–20) 2010
  • +12 vs. Romania (34–22) 2012
  • +11 vs. Algeria (37–26) 2008
  • +11 vs. Netherlands (35–24) 2016
  • +11 vs. Slovakia (32–21) 2014
  • +10 vs. Bahrain (32–22) 2016
  • +10 vs. Turkey (32–22) 2016

Biggest losses

Olympic Games World Championship European Championship Mediterranean Games Qualifications
  • -9 vs. Sweden (18–27) 1996
  • -7 vs. Qatar (23–30) 2016
  • -6 vs. Spain (29–35) 2008
  • -11 vs. Russia (20–31) 1997
  • -15 vs. Russia (14–29) 1998
  • -12 vs. FR Yugoslavia (22–34) 2002
  • -10 vs. Denmark (20–30) 2008
  • -7 vs. Spain (21–28) 2005

Youth teams

Croatia national handball team
Medal record
European Championship U-20
2012 Turkey
World Championship U-19
2009 Tunisia
2007 Bahrain
2013 Hungary
2005 Qatar
European Championship U-18
2006 Estonia
2010 Montenegro
2004 Serbia and Montenegro
2016 Croatia
European Summer Olympic Festival
2009 Finland

Croatia has various youth selection which compete at the highest European and World level in handball. Various Croatia players have also played for the youth selection of Yugoslavia. At the 1981 1981 World U-21 Championship Yugoslavia U-21 won the gold medal in Portugal.


The Croatia national handball team has received numerous award throughout the years.

Senior squad

U-19 squad

See also


  1. "CROATIA SEEK CONSISTENCY ON THEIR WAY TO THE TOP". Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  2. "Dokumentarac o povijesnom uspjehu kada su Hrvati šokirali sportski svijet". Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  3. "Rukometna reprezentacija perjanica je hrvatskog sporta, a London je nova prilika za povijest". Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  4. "Kladionice Francuska i Danska opaki favoriti Hrvatska visoko". 24 sata. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  5. "Handball: France beat Croatia to advance to European championship semis". 25 January 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  6. "Povijest rukometa". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 6 January 2016.
  7. "Razvoj rukometa". (in Croatian).
  8. "Povijest rukometa". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 2016-10-21. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  9. "Počeci djelovanja Hrvatskog rukometnog saveza". (in Croatian).
  10. "Prije 70 godina odigrana prva rukometna utakmica u Zagrebu". (in Croatian).
  11. "ZNAČAJNIH 80 GODINA RUKOMETA". (in Croatian).
  12. "International Handball Federation". IHF.
  13. "Uspeh rukometašica". (in Serbian).
  14. "Od Od Rijeke do Herninga: Kako je Hrvatska postala pretplaćena na rukometne". (in Croatian).
  15. Olimpijski Komitet Srbije(1)
  16. Olimpijski Komitet Srbije(2)
  17. Hrvatski Olimpijski Odbor
  18. Olimp(MI)
  19. MI 1979.
  20. Olimpijska Odličja
  21. "Olimpijski Treneri". Archived from the original on 2016-09-20. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  22. Rukometne Medalje
  23. Svjetske Medalje
  24. Todor Arhiv
  25. Njemački Arhiv
  26. Enciklopedija Fizičke Kulture
  27. Irislav Dolenec
  28. Jezdimir Stanković
  29. Branislav Pokrajac
  30. Ivan Snoj
  31. Pero Janjić(1)
  32. Pero Janjić(2)
  33. Zdravko Malić(1) Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  34. Zdravko Malić(2)
  35. Josip Milković SP 1974.
  36. Božo Peter SP 1961.
  37. Ivan Uremović SP 1967.
  38. Sastav SP 1978.
  39. Serdarušić SP 1978.
  40. Jugoslavija-Island
  41. Jugoslavija-DDR
  42. Jugoslavija-Španjolska
  43. Jugoslavija-SSSR
  44. "Protiv Japana: Na današnji su dan prvi put zaigrali "kauboji"". 24 sata (in Croatian).
  45. "Povijest". (in Croatian).
  46. "Na današnji dan MOO je priznao Hrvatski olimpijski odbor". (in Croatian).
  47. "Na današnji dan MOO je priznao Hrvatski olimpijski odbor". (in Croatian).
  48. "Men Handball I European Championship 1994 Portugal".
  49. "Men Handball XIV World Championship 1995 Iceland".
  50. "Men Handball II European Championship 1996 Spain".
  52. "Atlanta 1996". (in Croatian).
  53. "Nije se ponovila Atlanta 1996 i put preko Francuza do prvog olimpijskog zlata za Hrvatsku". (in Croatian).
  54. "Povijesne Igre u SAD-u: Zbog rukometaša smo prvi put čuli 'Lijepu našu'". (in Croatian).
  55. "SPOMENAR: Gdje su danas pripadnici slavne generacije iz Atlante?". (in Croatian).
  56. "Čarobnjak iz Umaga: Lino Červar". (in Croatian).
  57. Struka Na SP 2003.
  58. "Hrvatska – Saudijska Arabija: U nastavku osigurana pobjeda". (in Croatian).
  59. "Hrvatska prvak svijeta!". (in Croatian).
  60. "Atena 2004. Novo zlato za rukomet i najveća berba medalja do tada". (in Croatian).
  61. Struka Na OI 2004.
  62. "Hrvatska srebrna; Metličić: Suci nam nisu dozvolili igrati, dali smo sve od sebe". Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  63. "Francuzi najbolji, Hrvatska druga na svijetu!". Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  64. Scheduled to play against at the qualifying tournament for the 2016 European Championship.
  65. 2019 World Championship squad
  66. "Izbornik Červar objavio konačan popis igrača za Svjetsko prvenstvo". 8 January 2019.
  67. "rukomet". Proleksis Enciklopedija. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
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