Baznik: ‘I want to give the maximum for my team’

EHF / Danijela Vekić

It was a good start to the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 for Slovenia, beating North Macedonia 27:25.

Ljubomir Vranjes’s team, who finished fourth at the last EURO edition, were favourites against North Macedonia and proved that by taking two points. One of the players that stood out was 28-year-old debutant, Joze Baznik.

Baznik had his national team debut in 2018, and played three international matches before this tournament, but has not been in the spotlight much. He has played for Cesson-Rennes for the past two years, and is currently among the top four goalkeepers of the French league.

Although the more experienced Urh Kastelic is also in Debrecen, Baznik was the number one goalkeeper for Slovenia in the first EHF EURO match - and showed why. With 10 saves, including some at pivotal points in the match against the Macedonians, he helped Slovenia to two valuable points. However, Baznik remains down-to-earth about his performance.

“I opened my first EHF EURO very well. I wouldn’t say it was great as there is always room for improvement. I made some mistakes I shouldn’t have, especially in the first half when the defence was good and strong, I didn’t react in the right way. I believe I can do much better. The only thing that matters is that we won,” he says.

The Slovenian goalkeeper started playing handball at the age of eight in Dobova. After playing in Krka and Velenje he moved to France, spending time at USAM Nimes Gard and PAUC Handball before joining his current club. But the EHF EURO 2022 is his first major competition in 20 years of handball. Was he nervous?

“I didn’t feel any pressure. When you have a coach who believes in you and gives you the chance at this competition, which is the first one for you, it’s really not that hard to be fully concentrated on the task,” Baznik thinks.

“Also, there are also my teammates who are my support, and with them it’s easy to be in the right spot at the right time. A good number of my saves were made thanks to them, who were playing good defence, like we trained,” he says.

The Grundfos Player of the Match was a shot-stopper in crucial parts of the match when the Macedonian team were closing the gap. His saves pumped the whole Slovenian delegation and their team spirit was shown in its pride and glory.

“I feel good, I have a good season behind me and all that gave me confidence between the posts. All this is not about me, it’s about the team. I’m here for them and I’m thankful for every opportunity I get,” says Baznik.

“If I play 60 minutes of the match, I will give 100 per cent, if I play only 10 minutes, I will also give 100 per cent. We all need to give our maximum if we want to win matches and I want to give as much as I can to this team,” he adds.

On Saturday, 15 January, Slovenia will face Denmark in round 2 (20:30 CET) and on the other side of the court will be another round 1 Grundfos Player of the Match, Niklas Landin. Slovenia will throw everything at the clash for first place in group A, marked by fast play. Their strength? Once again, team spirit.

“Our team spirit can be our key to success. That was shown already in the match against North Macedonia, we fought until the very last moment,” Baznik points out.

“There were times when Kiril Lazarov’s team came very close, but we stayed focused and took two points. That’s what defines us.

“We know that we can expect many different things from Denmark. They can play fast, with many fast breaks, and have a strong defence with one of the best goalkeepers behind them,” Baznik predicts.

Slovenia finished fourth at the EHF EURO 2020 and continued to play at a high level. They had a good preparation period without many problems and played one preparation match against Croatia. So what are the expectations for the rest of the tournament?

“It’s hard to say what are the expectations, every day is a new challenge and you never know what’s going to happen. We will be focused on what we know the best – play handball and play it as good as we can,” Baznik concludes.

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