From the beginning of the preparations, in the last week of April until the beginning of June, the Croatian volleyball team played 12 official matches and, most importantly, achieved all the set goals that were in front of them.
First, we started with two qualifying tournaments for the European Championship, where their rivals were the Dutch and the Swedes, and wherewith almost 3-1, the Croatian national team qualified for the tournament of the 24 best European teams after six years. It should be mentioned that, when it was most important, in the second tournament, they did not lose their head, but triumphed with 3: 2 victories.
Immediately after the qualifications, there was a performance in the Silver European League, which, by the way, in 2018 the Croatian volleyball players won. This year, they had Austria, Hungary and Luxembourg in the group, through which our team qualified for the Final Four in Strumica with 4 wins and 2 losses. In the final tournament, they lost in the semifinals to the hosts of Northern Macedonia and in the fight for bronze from Hungary with 2: 3.
And when we mention the fifth set, let’s say that among those 12 matches played, half of them, as many as six, were played that way, with a score of 3 wins and 3 losses.
One of the irreplaceable members of the Croatian national team, who carried the heaviest burden on his back in those 12 matches, is certainly Marko Sedlaček, a 202 cm tall receiver-outside hitter who will only turn 25 at the end of July. So, a volleyball player in full force will wear the national jersey for a long time.
Marko will say about the completed first part of the preparations:
“The most important thing for us was to qualify for the European Championship, it was the primary goal that we did successfully, although in a difficult way because we complicated the situation with Sweden. But I guess it must have been so stressful. We didn’t have much time to work together before those qualifiers, so even those weren’t Zanini’s classic preparations. But in the end, we achieved our goal.“
What Sedlaček especially emphasizes is the youth and perspective of this national team:
“I am very satisfied with how we played, how we fit in, and especially how the young players coped, among whom there is a large number who have not played for the national team so far. While on the other hand, our other rivals were mostly in the strongest formations.“
Rivals in the strongest teams, and Croatia in the continuation of the competition, in the Silver European League, even without the three most experienced, Zhukouski, Raič and Mihalj, to whom the coach Emanuele Zanini gave free after the qualifications for the European Championship.
“It was a great school for these young players, I know from my own experience, because when I entered the national team, every point, every set, meant a lot to me in gaining experience. My only regret is that in the end, we didn’t win a medal in the final tournament, because I think we played maybe two of our best games in Strumica. But we lacked a little more concentration and luck as we lost two practically rejected games.“
After 12 matches, the national team got a break until the beginning of July, when new preparations begin, in Osijek, for the European Championship in September. Our chosen species is located in Group D, which is played in Tallinn, and where, in addition to the host Estonia, there are also Latvia, France, Germany and Slovakia.
“We watched the draw of groups live and even then I had the feeling that the draw would anoint us. I am optimistic before the start of the Championship, I think we can realistically think about going to the second round, but in the end everything will depend solely on us and the preparations we make for that European Championship,“ says Marko Sedlaček, who will play for the big Turkish club Galatasaray.