Duvnjak ready for “great night of handball” against Germany

INTERVIEW: Croatian star Domagoj Duvnjak talks about an upcoming duel against his THW Kiel friends and why there are no thoughts of revenge for the defeat by Germany at the world championship

Domagoj Duvnjak is relishing Croatia's run at the EHF EURO 2020. Photo © Jure Erzen / kolektiff

Croatia’s Domagoj Duvnjak has played in Germany since 2009 – first for HSV Hamburg, steering them to the VELUX EHF Champions League trophy in 2013, and then since 2014 for THW Kiel.

Not only does he know the German team well from playing with or against many of them at club level, but the Croatian centre back has also played several crucial international matches against the country where he plies his trade.

On Saturday, Croatia can make a huge step towards the semi-finals of the EHF EURO 2020, after winning all their matches so far. Duvnjak plays a crucial role as team captain and mastermind of his side – and, of course, he knows German handball.

ehf-euro.com: Have you spoken to your THW Kiel teammates since you arrived in Vienna?

Domagoj Duvnjak: We are in the same hotel, but we only had the chance to talk for a short time. We haven’t had that much time so far, but this is always the same at such tournaments.

ehf-euro.com: How do you rate the German performances so far?

Domagoj Duvnjak: To be honest, I haven't seen any of their matches, just 10 minutes against Spain before we arrived at Vienna. On Friday night, we had a long video analysis session on the Germans and will prepare.

ehf-euro.com: What kind of match do you expect against Germany?

Domagoj Duvnjak: We faced Germany in January at the world championship and we had two test matches against them in October – all three matches ended in a very close way with a goal difference of only one, and all of them were really tough matches.

Besides, the number of goals in all three duels was very low, and this is exactly what I expect for our match on Saturday. Both sides will focus on a strong defence, so wait and see which plan will become reality.

ehf-euro.com: Your THW teammates Hendrik Pekeler and Patrick Wiencek are the defence bosses in the German team. What do you expect from them?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Pekeler and Wiencek are the most important players of the German defence, both are extraordinary players, and they will really put pressure on us and make it hard for us.

ehf-euro.com: Croatia or Germany – for which team will your neutral THW Kiel teammates cross their fingers?

Domagoj Duvnjak: I am sure for both sides.

ehf-euro.com: Will the match be a kind of revenge for the defeat at the World Championship 2019?

Domagoj Duvnjak: No, this is a completely forgotten. This is sport. We are friends: for 60 minutes we will give all we can on both sides against each other in a fair way, then we are friends again. But in the end, it is only sport, there are much more important things in life, so I do not have any feelings of revenge.

ehf-euro.com: Is the duel with Germany something like a quarter-final on the way to Stockholm?

Domagoj Duvnjak: If we win this match, we are almost through to the semi-finals, this is why the match against Germany is the most important match during this tournament for us.

ehf-euro.com: Which atmosphere do you expect for the match?

Domagoj Duvnjak: The arena will be sold out, we are really looking forward to a great night of handball. This match will really be a festival of handball, for Croatian and for German fans.

ehf-euro.com: Which team is the favourite?

Domagoj Duvnjak: Germany, because we have not beaten them for a long time. They beat us at the world championship, they beat us twice in October, therefore they are the favourites.

written by Björn Pazen / jh