PHOTO: Ante Čizmić/Cropix

CROATIAN SPORT: WHAT HAPPENED IN 2023?

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Croatia has always been a sporting nation, but what happened in 2023?

Another year is behind us. And it was very good and specific for Croatian sports. Croatian athletes won more than a hundred medals at major competitions, which is a very impressive number. Maybe it’s a dry number, but behind that dryness is blood, sweat, and tears. There are many sacrifices, there are ups and downs, and let’s not forget disappointments and joy. For them, there is no giving up. They will always work and do their best to achieve the best possible result, and they will bring joy and happiness to their fans and followers.

The year 2023 was the last one in which the “Snow Queen” took place, but that is not the reason for our skiers to make a result. Ljutić, Popović, Zubčić, and Kolega achieved good results in skiing in the first and second part of the year. They didn’t have the support that Janica and Ivica Kostelić had. We can only wish them to continue to work hard to have an even better result in 2024.

In January, the IHF World Championship was played. Poland and Sweden were the hosts. Along with Egypt and the USA, Croatia qualified for the next competition, where Denmark, Bahrain, and Belgium welcomed them. A tie against Denmark and two wins against Bahrain and Belgium were not enough to advance to the quarter-finals of the IHF World Championship. Croatia finished in ninth place, and the champions were the Danes who beat France in the final.

In May 2023, Futsal Dinamo entered the final of the Croatian Championship for the first time since its existence, and by winning the series 3-1 over Olmissum, became the Croatian champion. In February, they hosted the finals of the Croatian Cup and were immediately eliminated in the quarterfinals by the second-division Šibenik. That’s why they weren’t the favorites in the semi-final and final series, but with a full house and support you can win. That’s why don’t write anyone off. Only a few months later, Futsal Dinamo won the Croatian Super Cup, and at the end of October, they also played in the UEFA Futsal Champions League. They turned out in quite an unfortunate way. Good luck next season.

In June, the UEFA Nations League finals were held. Croatia confirmed their form at the FIFA World Cup when they were the third-ranked team in the world. Croatia played against the Netherlands in the semifinals of the League of Nations, and after the regular part it was 2:2. There was drama to be had as the Netherlands scored to equalize with seconds remaining. The masters of penalty kicks have gone on. In the final, they were awaited by Spain, who eventually won the UEFA Nations League.

At the beginning of the summer, the Croatian national basketball team played pre-qualifications for the World Cup and Olympic Games qualifications. They played very well in both tournaments and thus secured their appearance in the main qualifiers. It remains to be seen what happens in qualifying. We don’t want to be pessimistic, but somehow it seems to us that we still have to get stronger to reach the level to fight with all the strong national teams. Good luck in qualifying.

When it comes to football, it’s always going to be tumultuous. GNK Dinamo played very badly this half-season, the summer transfer window was poorly handled, and Hajduk is seven points behind them, even though they have two games less. But there are problems for Dinamo because they have to strengthen themselves, and they play in three competitions: the championship, the cup, and the European competition. Croatian football is a big problem because many Croatian clubs are relegated to weaker teams, honor to the exceptions.

The Croatian national football team continued the qualification for EURO 2024. In September, they did it perfectly, but in October they ruined everything they had done in a few months. In November, they improved everything, with the help of Wales, and qualified for the EURO. Old acquaintances, the Spaniards and Italians are waiting for them there, as well as the opponent they will meet for the first time – Albania.

We should mention that women’s football in Croatia is also rising and achieving results. They ensured the playoff for the highest ranking in the UEFA Nations League. They are not the favorites, but something is being done and happening with women’s soccer in Croatia. Likewise, futsal has never been better. The Croatian futsal national team will play additional qualifiers for the World Cup, which will be held in Uzbekistan.

The Croatian women’s handball national team played in the IHF World Championship. In the first game, they lost a valuable point. They went on to the next competition, where they defeated Cameroon and beat Montenegro. Incomprehensibly they lost to Hungary. Against Hungary, Croatia led until the 54th minute, and then in the last six minutes, they inexplicably put on the brakes and eventually lost the game and any chance to advance.

Archer Giovanni Cernogoraz won the gold at the Olympic Games in London in 2012, and then he seemed to disappear. However, this year, at the age of 40, he won gold at the World Championship in Baku, and then won another gold in Osijek, this time at the European Championship. Perhaps at the Olympic Games in Paris, he will win a medal again.

Let’s mention how Barbara Matić won world and European bronze in judo, and Lena Stojković won gold at the World Cup in taekwondo. Matea Jelić won the bronze medal at the World Championships in the category up to 73 kg. Ivana Duvančić, Lena Stojković, and Ivan Šapina won gold at the European Games, Lovre Brečić took silver, while Kristina Tomić, Paško Božić and Nika Klepac won bronze. Let’s mention how karate women won the team silver at the European Championship, and won the bronze at the World Cup.

Tin Srbić won the European gold in Antalya and won the silver in Antwerp. Filip Hrgović registered 17 victories before the end of the year and became the main candidate for challenger according to the IBF version. Gabrijel Veočić, won the silver medal in the light heavyweight category (up to 80 kg) at the European Games in Krakow, thus ensuring his performance at the Olympic Games in Paris.

Brothers Valentin and Martin Sinković won silver at the World and European Championships and will defend the Olympic gold next year. The year 2023 brought Croatian sailing four norms for the Olympic Games, so a so far unknown representative in class ILCA 7 (former laser), brothers Šime and Mihovil Fantela in class 49er, and for the first time, kitesurfer Martin Dolenc and a windsurfer will travel to Marseille. (windsurfing) Palma Čargo. Also, great news came from Italy in March, as Tonči Stipanović won the title of European champion in the ILCA 7 class (formerly Laser) at the European Championship in Andorra, Italy, while his clubmate Filip Jurišić won silver, which is one of the greatest Croatian successes of sailing in the history.

The kickboxing team achieved a great result at the World Cup, where their representatives won numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals. And darts is becoming a sport that we will certainly be following in the future. Boris Krčmar knocked out some of the favorites at the World Cup but was stopped in the round of 16.

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