EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, PART TWO: The mastermind is back on the Croatian bench. In Part one, he tells ehf-euro.com about the path from Skopje to Zagreb, and what has changed during his absence.

The second part of the exclusive interview with Lino Cervar is all about the EHF EURO 2018, when the hosts’ one and only objective appears to be to win their first ever gold medal at the European championship.

On Friday, the draw for the EHF EURO 2018 will take place in Zagreb. It is streamed live on the EHF EURO Youtube channel as well as on the EHF EURO Facebook page.

Cervar also talks about the pressure, expectation and memories of hosting the World Championship 2009, when the Croatians made it to the final but lost against France.

ehf-euro.com: Do you already have an idea what your EURO team will look like? More younger players or more experienced ones?

Lino Cervar: I think it will be all about chemistry of young and experienced players. There will be high criteria for all players who want to wear the national team jersey. That is very important because in that way, we will strengthen our mental power and character. I believe in our kids because they know how to win.

ehf-euro.com: One of Croatia’s key players is Domagoj Duvnjak. Are you in contact with him in terms of his physical fitness? Can he be the big leader in 2018 on home ground after a six-month injury break?

Lino Cervar: I’m in touch with Domagoj through mutual communication but also in my thoughts. I want and I will think positive. I strongly believe he will lead our team in Split, the Dalmatian metropole, the city of sport with a big love for the national team. When I remember 2009 and the support in Split, even in this mature age I feel unbelievable responsibility. I expect a big support in the whole of Croatia because our handball players won 13 medals since becoming an independent country – that deserves the support without any doubt.

ehf-euro.com: As you mentioned, Croatia did not win any trophy since 2004. Is the gold medal at the EHF EURO 2018 at home therefore a must?

Lino Cervar: If the gold medal is our only priority and if we’re going to think only about that, we will not achieve that goal. It sounds a little bit arrogant, immodest and incorrect towards our EURO opponents. We have to focus on our game, to think about progress because progress brings results.

ehf-euro.com: No other team except France has continually ranked among the top six in all global men’s handball competitions in the last decade. Why do you think your new team did not win a title since 2004?

Lino Cervar: I can only give compliments to France, their players and all officials. They always were the fishbone in our throat – but they have also lost some important matches against Croatia. But, we should not go back to the past. We have to look forward and be positive about the chance we have in 2018. As hosts, we have to try to give to our supporters and all Croatians new joy and positive emotions, and create happiness. We have to prove our strength on the court because no opponent will donate anything to us because we are the hosts.

ehf-euro.com: Do fans and media in Croatia sometimes put too much pressure on the national team and the coaches?

Lino Cervar: When it comes to pressure, it is always there. We are hosts and it’s normal. We have to learn how to deal with it. Let’s not forget the fact that in the big battles often the winner is not the one who is better, potentially stronger, richer, more persistent or more confident.

ehf-euro.com: How will you decrease the pressure before the home event?

Lino Cervar: Pressure will be reduced if we manage to build a homogenous team, a team of friends. Only if we have a team like that will victories be possible in impossible circumstances. In that case, no mountain is too high. In that case, if we set a goal, the destination where we want to go, there is no space for conformism, fun, tiredness and laziness. That is the matter of sacrifice, determination and self-confidence – that is the price you need to pay.

ehf-euro.com: You already enjoyed a major tournament on home ground with the World Championship 2009. What are your most important memories from that tournament?

Lino Cervar: I will remember 2009 as a beautiful World Championship, a big silver medal, but also with gloominess because we did not win gold, with all due respect to French team. It is always hard to remember 2009, when we invested a lot in infrastructure, new venues – which are not only used for handball now, for organisation, and we did not manage to make to most of it. I will remember 2009 as great support from our fans, unbelievable love towards our national team. That is why I would really like for the Croatian national team to belong to all citizens. Let that be the message of EHF EURO 2018.

ehf-euro.com: What will be different in 2018 – only the colour of the medal?

Lino Cervar: It will be different if we don’t allow the environment to condition how to grow, how to live and how to work. We have to have our personality. We need to seek our motive and stop saying that we don’t have a team for the top of Europe. Bravery is in fact wisdom to work despite difficulties, because when a team makes a decision there are no obstacles. You walk around it, over and under it, or through it, but you keep moving forward, towards the goal.

ehf-euro.com: What headline would you love to read on January 29, 2018 in the Croatian newspapers?

Lino Cervar: I would be happiest if I read a front page that says: “Croatian team won”. That’s the message of Croatian sport to all Croatian citizens.

TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg

Article E.H.F. : http://www.eurohandball.com/article/28994