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EHF EURO

Ivan Cupic, the leader of the Croatian youth

EHF / Kevin Domas

With Domagoj Duvnjak and Luka Cindric sidelined, Ivan Cupic donned the captain’s armband and led Croatia on the court for their first EHF EURO 2022 game against France.

“Of course, I would prefer for them to be here and for me not to have to be the captain, but it is an honour for me. We are just wishing them to get well as soon as possible and get the green light to perform,” said the RK Zagreb player before starting the competition.

On the court, though, for the first EHF EURO game against France, the left-hander acted as a real leader. Cheering up the fans and motivating his teammates, he scored six goals at a 100 per cent efficiency rate, showing the way to the young Croatian players – many playing an EHF EURO for the first time.

Despite the absence of their two leaders, Croatia still want to be a team that counts in the competition.

“All the time, during the preparation, the focus among us players was that we have to believe in each other. No matter if you play zero or 60 minutes, if you score zero or 100 goals, you must have faith in the guy that is standing next to you,” says Cupic.

Against France, after a complicated start to the game, the captain was the one to pull Croatia back into the match. And then, when his team was back on track, he was happy to witness some of the youngsters, such as Tin Lucin, sit behind the driving wheel.

“Against France, it was Tin or Zvonimir Srna who led the way, but tomorrow, it will be someone else. Handball is not about players, it’s about teams. France were the best team on the court in the first game, but I’m sure we can bounce back,” adds Cupic.

The captain knows that, with 10 of 16 Croatian players taking part in the first EHF EURO of their career, he might have to go the extra mile to help his team.

For this “new squad with a lot of courage”, the game against Serbia on Saturday will already be decisive. A win would keep Croatia’s main round dreams alive, while a defeat would surely mean a return home earlier than expected.

“Tomorrow is a new beginning,” says Cupic, who asked his teammates to already focus on Saturday’s game and not to think too much about what happened against France.

“That was just one game in the three we have to play here. Not less, but not more important than the two that await us. Now we must focus on Serbia. I hope that we can get the points on Saturday,” concludes Cupic.

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