Croatia men's national handball team

The Croatia national handball team represents Croatia in international men's team handball competitions and friendly matches. The handball team is controlled by the Croatian Handball Federation (HRS).

NicknameKauboji (The Cowboys)
AssociationCroatian Handball Federation
CoachHrvoje Horvat
Assistant coachIvano Balić
CaptainDomagoj Duvnjak
Most capsIgor Vori (246)
Most goalsMirza Džomba (719)
Summer Olympics
Appearances5 (First in 1996)
Best result (1996, 2004)
World Championship
Appearances14 (First in 1995)
Best result (2003)
European Championship
Appearances14 (First in 1994)
Best result (2008, 2010, 2020)
Last updated on Unknown.
Croatia men's national handball team
Medal record
Olympic Games
1996 AtlantaTeam
2004 AthensTeam
2012 LondonTeam
World Championship
2003 Portugal
1995 Iceland
2005 Tunisia
2009 Croatia
2013 Spain
European Championship
2008 Norway
2010 Austria
2020 Sweden/Austria/Norway
1994 Portugal
2012 Serbia
2016 Poland
Mediterranean Games
1993 Languedoc-Rousillon
1997 Bari
2001 TunisTeam
2018 TarragonaTeam
2005 AlmeríaTeam
2013 MersinTeam

Croatia has often been portrayed[1] as an international force in handball, having won two Olympic gold medals and one World Championship, but never winning the Euros, having lost three finals, one to rivals France, one to Denmark, and one to Spain. The Croatian national team that won the 1996 Olympic gold medal was often credited as the biggest upset in history of handball, with handball making its debut appearance.[2] The Croatian national team won a so-called "international double" after winning both the gold medal at the Olympics (2004) and the World Championship (2003), beating Germany in both finals.

Croatia's handball team has often been labelled[3] as a model for sport, often being the replacement for Romania in Europe's "Big three" in handball, alongside France and Denmark.[4] Some of their biggest rivals are neighbours Slovenia, Hungary and Serbia. Germany are also called rivals of the handball team, although matches between Germany and Croatia have been met with Croatian dominance, Germany only winning once in their nine meetings, and Croatia winning seven times. Mediterranean side Spain have also been called as close rivals, having played 23 games with them, the most out of any sides the Croatians have played within handball. However, the French are often remarked as Croatia's biggest-ever rival in handball, due to both countries' successes. In recent history though, Croatia often suffered eliminations at the hands of the French.[5]


Handball in Austria-Hungary monarchy (1904–1918)

The word handball in the Croatian region was first used by Franjo Bučar, describing the German game Schleuderball in the journal Sokol 1904. The earliest documented forms of playing handball in these areas appear in 1911 in the gymnasium of Pazin, which is among other things due to the fact that programs for education in Istria, as part of the then Austrian coast, coming from the education center in Graz. In Croatia, at the time handball was in high school programs closing ceremony. It was a kind of Czech handball extended from the Czech Republic, where it was adopted by the Osijek and Vukovar students from Prague.[6]

Between the two world wars (1918–1941)

In the early beginnings of the Croatian handball, venues played field handball and handball. Students were still more attracted to field handball, because the little handball were played on makeshift courts without the right door, as opposed to the field handball, which is played on the existing football fields.[7] During the Kingdom of Yugoslavia first public handball match in the Croatian region was played and in the wider neighborhood. It was played in a high school in Varaždin 29 May 1930 under the guidance of physical education teachers Zvonimir Šuligoj. Since that game, until 1950, in Croatia and Yugoslavia publicly played exclusively field handball, on the football field with eleven players on each side. In high school in Zagreb on 1 June 1935, opened the first handball courts in Yugoslavia.[8]

The establishment of Croatian Handball Federation and the first Croatian national team (1941–1945)

At the beginning of World War II Kingdom of Yugoslavia disintegrated. Most of the territory inhabited by Croats on 10 April 1941, it became part of the newly formed Independent State of Croatia (NDH). As part of the new state on 2 October 1941 in Zagreb for the first time in history the Croatian Handball Federation (HRS) was established.[9] The place of foundation is recorded to be at the Croatian Sports home in Jurišićeva, Zagreb. HRS is the umbrella organization of handball in the ISC coordinated the work of a dozen clubs and until 1944 organized national championships. In the state of NDH was established the first Croatian handball team. The first training for practice-match team NDH was held on 12 October 1941 between the two teams selected from the head coach Dragutin Pehe. His first and only international match this team played on 14 June 1942 with Hungary in Budapest where they lost 0:9. This field handball match was played in front of 30,000 spectators at the then NEP Stadium (since 2002 Ferenc Puskás Stadium) was a prelude meeting of the football teams of the same name.[10] The best handball player in the field was the goalkeeper Branko Kralj. Under the direction of the coach Ante Škrtić, the players for Croatia were Vlado Abramović, Irislav Dolenec, Žarko Galetović, Zvonko Leskovar, Todor Marinov, Viktor Medved, Krešo Pavlin, Vlado Šimanović Stjepan Širić, Josip Žitnik and reserve goalkeeper Zdenko Šurina. HRS stopped functioning in 1944 because of the war in World War II.[11]

Handball in SFR Yugoslavia (1945–1991)

When the 1945 World War II ended, the territory of the Independent State of Croatia was included in the newly established SFR Yugoslavia.

Immediately after that began the reconstruction of the war abandoned handball in Yugoslavia, and that same year founded the Committee for handball Gymnastics Association Croatian, and in May 1948 the Committee for handball Gymnastics Association of Yugoslavia. Operation HRS is restored on 19 December 1948, in which he, in accordance with the national policy of the new Yugoslav state, name changed in the Croatian Handball Association (RSH). Handball Federation of Yugoslavia (RSJ) was established on 17 December 1949 in Belgrade by pooling national and provincial associations, and it became a member of the International Handball Federation (IHF) in 1950.[12]

After the end of World War II, most field handball players of NDH completed courses and became instructors or referees in handball. Some of them have become members of the field handball national team of Yugoslavia and played in its first international match, played on 19 June 1950 at the stadium in Stadion Kranjčevićeva in Zagreb, against Belgium. Yugoslavia won 18:3 playing with nine players from Zagreb, one from Split and one from Sarajevo.[13]

Since the end of World War II until the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, the best Croatian handball players in field and team handball played for the national team of Yugoslavia. With this national team Croatians have performed at 17 major competitions and won seven medals. These are two Olympic gold medals, the Olympic bronze, world gold, world silver and two bronze world. Among the other famous trophy, in this period they won 5 gold medals in five appearances at the Mediterranean Games (1967, 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1991), two gold and one bronze medal at the World Cups held in 1971, 1974 and 1984 in Sweden, 2 bronze medals at handball Super League held in 1981 and 1983 in Germany and silver at the 1990 goodwill Games in Seattle.

At the World Junior Championship in 1987 in Rijeka there was created a nucleus generation that will define the nineties and bring some of the most beautiful handball stories for the Croatian national team. Alvaro Načinović, Iztok Puc, Vladimir Jelčić and other predominantly have won this championship playing for Yugoslavia, and their talent and knowledge are later incorporated as seniors in the first Croatian success after independence of the country.[14]

Place Croatians in the team of Yugoslavia[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35] Croatian head coaches
10th place at WC 1952Irislav Dolenec (player)Ivan Snoj / Irislav Dolenec
5th place at WC 1955.Irislav Dolenec (player), Stjepan KorbarIvan Snoj / Irislav Dolenec
8th place at WC 1958Jerolim Karadža, Lovro Manestar, Božidar Peter, Zlatko Šimenc?, Ivan ŠpoljarićIvan Snoj
9th place at SP 1961.Anton Bašić, Ivan Đuranec, Zvonko Jandroković, Jerolim Karadža, Božidar Peter,[36] Zlatko Šimenc?Ivan Snoj
6th place at WC 1964Vojislav Bjegović, Vinko Dekaris, Ivan Đuranec, Lujo Györy, Jerolim Karadža, Zvonko Kocijan, Josip Milković, Vladimir Vićan, Albin Vidović, Zlatko ŽagmešterIvan Snoj
7th place at WC 1967Vinko Dekaris, Ivan Đuranec, Hrvoje Horvat, Jerolim Karadža, Branko Klišanin, Josip Milković, Miroslav Pribanić, Dobrivoje Selec, Ninoslav Tomašić, Ivan Uremović,[37] Vladimir VićanIvan Snoj / Irislav Dolenec
Gold medal at MG 1967Hrvoje Horvat, Miroslav Klišanin, Josip Milković, Ivan Uremović, Albin VidovićIvan Snoj / Vlado Štencl
Bronze medal at WC 1970Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Marijan Jakšeković, Dragutin Mervar, Josip Milković, Miroslav Pribanić, Zlatko ŽagmešterIvan Snoj / Vlado Štencl
Gold medal at WC 1971Ivan Snoj
Gold medal at OG 1972Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Miroslav Pribanić, Dobrivoje Selec, Albin Vidović, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Vlado Štencl
Bronze medal at WC 1974Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Zvonimir Serdarušić, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Josip Milković
Gold medal at WC 1974Ivan Snoj
Gold medal at MG 1975Abas Arslanagić, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Miroslav Pribanić, Zvonimir Serdarušić, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj
5th place at OG 1976Abas Arslanagić, Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Zvonimir Serdarušić, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Pero Janjić
5th place at WC 1978[38]Hrvoje Horvat, Zdravko Miljak, Željko Nimš, Zvonimir Serdarušić,[39] Željko Vidaković, Zdenko ZorkoIvan Snoj / Zdravko Malić
Gold medal at MG 1979Pavle Jurina, Željko Vidaković, Zdravko Zovko, Željko Zovko
6th place OG 1980Pavle Jurina, Stjepan Obran
Bronze medal SC 1981
Silver medal at WC 1982Mirko Bašić, Pavle Jurina, Stjepan Obran, Zdravko Zovko
Bronze medal SC 1983
Gold medal at MG 1983Mirko Bašić, Pavle Jurina, Stjepan Obran, Željko Vidaković, Zdravko Zovko
Bronze medal at SC 1984
Gold medal at OG 1984Mirko Bašić, Pavle Jurina, Zdravko Zovko / Abas Arslanagić (GK coach)
Gold medal at WC 1986Mirko Bašić, Zlatko Saračević / Abas Arslanagić (GK coach and fitness coach)
Bronze medal at OG 1988Mirko Bašić, Boris Jarak, Alvaro Načinović, Goran Perkovac, Iztok Puc, Zlatko Saračević, Irfan SmajlagićAbas Arslanagić
4th place at WC 1990[40][41]Mirko Bašić, Nenad Kljaić, Iztok Puc, Zlatko Saračević, Irfan Smajlagić, Ratko Tomljanović
Silver medal at GG 1990[42][43]Patrik Ćavar, Bruno Gudelj, Nenad Kljaić
Gold medal at MG 1991Tomislav Farkaš, Valter Matošević

Modern Croatia national handball team (1991–present)

Official formation and first competitions (1991–1996)

Croatia on 30 May 1990 began the process of creating the independent state, and soon established and modern Croatian handball team. The first international match of the Croatian handball team was played on 14 January 1991 in Zagreb, in Kutija Šibica. It was a friendly match with Japan which ended in a draw 23:23. The team was coached by Josip Milković with assistant coach Lino Červar and the players were Patrik Čavar, Tonči Peribonio, Vlado Šola, Ivica Obrvan, Nenad Kljaić, Iztok Puc, Ratko Tomljanović, Bruno Gudelj, Željko Zovko, Stjepan Obran, Tomislav Farkaš, Robert Ipša, Ivo Glavinić and Goran Stojanović.[44] The dissolution of Yugoslavia that followed, Croatia gained full independence on 8 October 1991 the Croatian Handball Association (RSH) in 1992 restored the original name of the Croatian Handball Federation (HRS), and on 10 April 1992 became a member of the International Handball Federation (IHF), and 23 July 1992 members of the European Handball Federation (EHF).[45]

Taking fourth place at the 1990 World Championship in Czechoslovakia the Yugoslav national team was placed among the nine best teams of the tournament, which acquired them the right to participate in the upcoming 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Because of the war and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, this team was disqualified, and should it was supposed to be specified who will replaced them in the games. Since the Croatian Olympic Committee (COC) was provisionally recognized on 17 January 1992 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and since Croatia had already on 22 May 1992 become a member of the United Nations, Croatian handball players had conditions to perform at the Olympic Games in 1992.[46] This unfortunately did not happen. Although Croatia in terms of game was handball superpower, it was decided that Yugoslavia would be replaced by Iceland at the games as they finished tenth at the 1990 World Championship.[47] Adverse effects of certain officials in the IOC prevented even the option of maintaining an additional qualifying tournament like the one held for the Croatian basketball players. Croatia also missed the 1993 World Championship in Sweden, because the World Championship in 1990 was an elimination tournament for this championship.

The following years, in spite of the short history of the country brought the Croatian team very significant results in important competitions. Croatia won its first official competition at the Mediterranean Games in 1993 in Languedoc-Roussillon, France, Croatia won gold. At the first ever European Championship in 1994 held in Portugal the team was led by Zdravko Zovko they won their first medal at this first major international competition. The group stage ended with Croatia finishing behind then powerful Russians, but in front of the French, led by the famous Jackson Richardson. In the semi-finals, the Swedes were better and Croatia played the third place match and won in a dramatic match against Denmark. Sweden won the tournament demolishing the Russians in the final with 13 points.[48] A year later at the 1995 World Championships in Iceland Croatia relatively went easily from group stage to the quarter final where there was brought a rarely seen drama. Tunisia was defeated after penalty shootout. Then the team beat Egypt in the quarter finals and Sweden men's national handball team in the semi-finals. In the final they the French were too big an obstacle for Zovko guys won their first Croatian World Championship silver medal.[49] Sweden won the bronze defeating Germany. The next year at the European Championship in 1996 in Spain, Croatia, was led by Abas Arslanagić. Croatia lost took fifth place with victory over the Czech Republic where the match was led by Vladimir Nekić because Arslanagić quit after Croatia failed to enter the semi-finals. The championship was won by Russia.[50]

Željko Kavran, the Chairman of the Croatian Handball Federation 1995–2008.

Gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics

On the second Olympics in which Croatian athletes performed under the banner of the Croatian flag and won their first gold medal. This was won by the athletes who were least expected to win it, handball players. They were sent off to Atlanta without hope, because at the European Championship in 1996 they had finished in a weak fifth place, and relations in the national team were bad. Coach Abas Arslanagić quit during the end of the European championship and the national handball selection was filled with confrontation and fights. 38 days before the Olympic Games, the team was taken over by coach Velimir Kljaić, whose statement: "Will go back swimming if we don't win a medal" no one took seriously.

Before the Olympics there were still problems. Preliminary matches didn't offer much optimism. A few days before the start of the handball tournament a friendly encounter with Algeria was not played to the end. The Croatian players left the court because the Algerians went too far with their abusive playing and hurt three players, Goran Perkovac, Slavko Goluža and Nenad Kljaić.[51]

The opening match of the Olympic games against Switzerland was tough. A victory was achieved in an already lost match. The Swiss led by as much as 6 goals, but then the goal was kept safe with a superb save from Venio Losert who just during the Olympic Games celebrated his 20th birthday. Making it a minimal victory, scoring in the 55th second before the end of the match, Patrik Ćavar brought a stellar victory.

The next two matches against Kuwait and hosts United States were easy victories. This was followed by the decisive encounter to enter the semi-finals, where there were only the two first-placed teams from each group.

The match with the then current Olympic and European champions Russia had a shocking finale. The Russians were leading by four points, but the Croats were arriving. The last minute was not for the faint of heart, but from the Russian roulette though the Croats came out as winners. One her of this triumph for the semi-finals was Valter Matošević. 40 seconds before the end of the match, when the result was 24:24, he defended a penalty shot from Torgovanov. Another hero was Božidar Jović, who just 3 seconds before the siren rang scored the winning goal.[52]

The last match in the group was with the Swedes. This was the one in which yoneou could choose an opponent in the semi-finals, but Kljun omitted Patrik Ćavar, Iztok Puc, Zlatko Saračević and Irfan Smajlagić from the match. Croatia was defeated with nine goals difference, but without their poker aces there wasn't much to expect. The defeat did not have larger significance, except that it took to save face. In the semi-finals they waited for the French who were World Champions. Croatian handball showed the best possible way to respond to defeat in the final of the 1995 World Championship in Iceland. Engaged and disciplined, Croatian players did a great job and ensured the silver medal the same brightness as did the water polo team.[53]

In the grand finale again Croatia faced the Swedes. In the semi-finals they defeated Spain, who later won the bronze medal. It was a great generation that only needed an Olympic gold medal to complete their collection. They probably hoped that Croatia was not with those who were missing against Sweden would not much raise the quality that they could be threatened. In the end their plans were foiled, and the Vikings failed to win. After starting 0: 1 followed by a brilliant game from the players Kljaić chose and the series of 6:1. The defense was solid and impenetrable and the attack varied and deadly. Perkovac great led his boys and Božidar Jović was the revelation of the tournament. Worried only in the final Zlatko Saračević was not playing properly, but Kljaić brought the perfect replacement, Zoran Mikulić. Although the Croatians twice led with seven goals difference, the second half offered drama. Swedes switched to defense 4–2 which created big problems. Decreased the difference and 6:30 minutes before the end came at just hit behind. Croatian handball players still in those crucial minutes they had never trembled hands.[54]

Thirty seconds before the end of the line player Nenad Kljaić scored a crucial goal for the final 27:26 and brought a glorious victory. With the sound of sirens was created indescribable celebration and parquet Georgia Dome in front of 25,000 visitors in the hall and millions of TV viewers, which is today known caterpillar gold handball. It was the biggest win in the history of Croatian sport. The handball players were not yet aware of this gold they had placed around his neck President of the Croatian Olympic Committee Antun Vrdoljak, who previously predicted 6 Atlanta medal and otherwise announced "As running from the day he was born" at Zagreb's main square. Still not running, but the handball players after returning from Atlanta to thousands of fans being greeted at the airport and on Jelačić Square. And they did the famous caterpillar crawl.[55]

Position Players
GoalkeepersValter Matošević, Venio Losert
Back playersZlatko Saračević, Goran Perkovac, Iztok Puc, Zoran Mikulić, Slavko Goluža, Bruno Gudelj, Valner Franković
Line playersNenad Kljaić, Alvaro Načinović, Božidar Jović
Wing playersIrfan Smajlagić, Patrik Ćavar, Vladimir Šujster, Vladimir Jelčić
Coaching staffVelimir Kljaić (Head coach), Milan Rončević (assistant and fitness coach), Zdenko Zorko (GK coach), Stanislav Peharec (Somatoped), Damir Suman (kinesiotherapists), Vladimir Nekić (tehniko), Josip Guberina (director)

A series of poor results (1996–2002)

After winning the Olympic gold medal on 4 August 1996 it was followed by a slow decline in the Croatian national team and the change of generations in which the handball players were far from winning a medal. It started when Croatia was knocked-out in the round of 16 of the World Championships. In Japan in 1997, Croatia was knocked out by Spain 31:25 and was ranked in 13th place. In Egypt 1999 they were knocked-out by Yugoslavia 30:23 leaving Croatia in 10th place. In France 2001 the national team would lose in the next round after two extra time (4 × 5 minutes) stopped Ukraine 37:34 (29: 29/33: 33) finishing in 9th place. At the European Championships in 1998, 2000 and 2002 finished in 8th, 6th and 16th place. Croatia in 2000 hosted the European Championship, they had high expectations from this tournament but they weren't fulfilled. After the defeat from Slovenia in the match for fifth place Croatia took only 6th place and failed to qualify for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The national team is also lost its ability to defend the gold from Atlanta in Sydney.

First Červar era (2002–2010)

Once the team reached bottom with their results, being ranked last or in 16th place at the 2002 European Championship, in March 2002 the Federation entrusted Lino Červar and with him the team that suffered a seven-year drought medal in two years was created into the world champions and Olympic winners. In the period between these two gold medals Croatia is still ranked 4th place at the European Championships in 2004 in Slovenia. With Červar in charge Croatia would be at the top of the handball world.[56]

Position Players
GoalkeepersVlado Šola, Valter Matošević, Mario Kelentrić
Back playersPetar Metličić, Ivano Balić, Blaženko Lacković, Slavko Goluža, Tonči Valčić
Line playersBožidar Jović, Renato Sulić, Igor Vori
Wing playersMirza Džomba, Nikša Kaleb, Vedran Zrnić, Goran Šprem
Defensive playersDenis Špoljarić, Davor Dominiković
Coaching staff[57]Lino Červar (Head coach), Irfan Smajlagić (Assistant coach), Mirko Bašić (GK coach), Josip Feldbauer (Doctor), Milorad Sakradžija (Fizioterapist), Antun Arić (Fizioterapist), Ivica Udovičić (tehniko), Ratko Balenović (Director)

With the arrival of Lino Červar and a maturing exceptionally talented new generation of with a young Ivano Balić the revival of the national team culminated at the 2003 World Championship. The start of the competition was disastrous. Croatia lost in their first match to Argentina who was at the time a punching for serious national teams in official competitions. Although the first half led with 5 goals, but 14 minutes before the end of the match conceded 6 goals. At the end of the match, Croatian handball players fired five successive attacks, and Mirza Džomba 20 seconds before the end missed the equalizer. How Croatian players badly played that match was proven by the fact they missed 6 penalty shots. During halftime of the second match against another underdog Saudi Arabia Croatia was losing with 2 differences and was playing desperately. Yet the team found strength to win this match.[58] The turning point was marvelous – the group's dramatic victories in the end against giants Russia, France and Hungary securing first place to the second part where the Croats were convincing against Egypt and Denmark. In semi-finals the match went into overtime (4 × 5 minutes) defeating the Spaniards 39:37 (26: 26/31: 31) and in the grand final they outscored Germany 34:31 and won their first title of world champions and wrote surely one of the most beautiful story's in the history of Croatian sport.[59]

In January 2004 Croatia played at the 2004 European Championship in Slovenia. They got to the semi-finals where they were knocked out by the hosts 25:27. They finished in fourth place losing the third place match to Denmark 27:31.

In Summer 2004 the Olympics were held in Athens. The national team continued its dominating play and were undefeated in all eight matches played. They defeated Iceland, Slovenia, South Korea, Russia, Spain, Greece and Hungary before getting to the final. In a dramatic final Croatia defeated Germany 26–24 and with the title of world champions they won the Olympic gold. In the last 5 minutes of the match went a goal ahead for Croatia, and then Nikša Kaleb who had not scored no goal with 3 consecutive goals sealed a great victory. The gold was an even greater success considering the fact that Croatia traveled to Athens without their best line player Renato Sulić who was recovering from a car accident, without important defense player Tonči Valčić and without Patrik Ćavar who was ill.[60]

Position Players
GoalkeepersVlado Šola, Venio Losert, Valter Matošević
Back playersPetar Metličić, Ivano Balić, Blaženko Lacković, Slavko Goluža, Drago Vuković
Line playersIgor Vori
Wing playersMirza Džomba, Nikša Kaleb, Vedran Zrnić, Goran Šprem
Defensive playersDenis Špoljarić, Davor Dominiković
Coaching staff[61]Lino Červar (Head coach), Irfan Smajlagić (Assistant coach), Zdenko Zorko (GK coach), Miljenko Rak (Fitness coach), Milorad Sakradžija (Fizioterapist), Josip Feldbauer (Doctor), Stanislav Peharec (Somatoped), Davor Urek (Tehniko), Ivica Udovičić (Director)


Croatia has developed several handball rivalries. Their most played rivalry is against France, which is often considered to be the one of the biggest modern handball rivalry since the end of the Cold War, since Croatia, Denmark, Spain and France are the most successful nations in handball both in Europe and worldwide. Their second biggest rivalry is with neighbors Slovenia, whom they played 14 times, winning 9 games and losing 5. In recent years, a rivalry with Spain has also developed, sometimes called the Mediterranean derby. Other rivalries include Denmark, Poland, Germany, Serbia and Hungary.

The 2009 World Men's Handball Championship, hosted in Croatia, was remembered[62] for constant refereeing mistakes, through which France ultimately won the final against Croatia. The final was memorable[63] for starting the "curse of Arena Zagreb", in which many Croatian sports teams had lost finals in the Arena. Many had questioned the appointment of Danish referee Olesen Pedersen, who was remarked for his constant mistakes against several Croatian handball players, through which France won the final. After the final, the rivalry sparked more in Croatia, but later became a famous French phenomenon.

Results at international competitions

Prior to 1991, Croatia men's national handball team played as a part of Yugoslavia men's national handball team.

Croatia played its first match on 14 January 1991 in Zagreb. Team's first opponent was Japan and the match ended tied 23–23.

Overview of achievements at major international competitions

Year Summer Olympics World Championship European Championship
1996 5th
1997 13th
1998 8th
1999 10th
2000 Did not participate 6th
2001 9th
2002 16th
2004 4th
2006 4th
2007 5th
2008 4th
2011 5th
2014 4th
2015 6th
2016 5th
2017 4th
2018 5th
2019 6th
2021 Did not participate 15th

Medal count (major competitions)

Updated after 2021 World Handball Championship

Olympic Games 2013
World Championship 1315
European Championship 0336

  Champions    Runners-up    Third place    Fourth place  

Competitive record (major competitions)

Competition Pld W D L GF GA GD
Olympic Games (5 times)3729081043925+118
World Championship (14 times)1178552733702898+472
European Championship (14 times)1006083226762553+123

Summer Olympics

Competitive record at the Summer Olympics
Year Round Position Pld W D L GF GA GD
1992Couldn't participate in qualification
2000Did not qualify
2020Did not qualify
2024To be determined
TotalQualified: 6/83729081043925+118
Including qualifying rounds46370913291133+196
Competitive record in qualifying rounds
Year Pld W D L GF GA GD Qual
1992Couldn't qualifyN/A
19962nd at the 1995 World Champyes
200010th at the 1999 World Champno
20041st at the 2003 World Champyes
2024To be determined

World Championship

Competitive record at the World Championship
Year Round Position Pld W D L GF GA GD
1993Couldn't participate in qualification
1995Final2nd 9702246211+35
1997Round of 1613th6213148146+2
1999Round of 1610th6312141145−4
2001Round of 169th6312188152+36
2003Final1st 9801270243+27
2005Final2nd 10802316273+43
2009Final2nd 10901298228+70
2011Main Round5th9612271213+58
2013Semi-final3rd 9801266202+64
2019Main Round6th9603250220+30
2021Main Round15th6312156122+4
2023To be determined
2025Qualified as co-host
2027To be determined
TotalQualified: 15/171178552733702898+472
Including qualifying rounds1279352936813151+520
Competitive record in qualifying rounds
Year Pld W D L GF GA GD Qual
1993Couldn't qualifyN/A
19953rd at the 1994 Euroyes
19975th at the 1996 Euroyes
20016th at the 2000 Euroyes
2005defending championyes
20074th at the 2006 Euroyes
2009Qualified as hostyes
20112nd at the 2010 Euroyes
20133rd at the 2012 Euroyes
20154th at the 2014 Euroyes
20173rd at the 2016 Euroyes
2021Top four at the 2020 Euroyes
2023To be determined
2025Qualified as co-hostyes
2027To be determined

European Championship

Competitive record at the European Championship
Year Round Position Pld W D L GF GA GD
1996Preliminary Round5th6402154150+4
1998Preliminary Round8th6213145150−5
2000Preliminary Round6th6312146139+7
2002Preliminary Round16th30037089−19
2018Fifth place match5th7502204187+17
2024To be determined
TotalQualified: 15/151006083226762553+123
Including qualifying rounds156106113942963857+439
Competitive record in qualifying rounds
Year Pld W D L GF GA GD Qual
2000Qualified as hostyes
20064th at the 2004 Euroyes
20084th at the 2006 Euroyes
2018Qualified as hostyes
2022To be determined

Mediterranean Games

Year Round Position Pld W D L GF GA GD
2009Did not compete
2021To be determined
TotalQualified: 6/7252104682623+59


Current squad

Squad for the 2021 Men's Handball Olympic Qualification.[64][65]

Head coach: Hrvoje Horvat

No. Pos. Name Date of birth (age) Height App. Goals Club
2 LW Lovro Mihić (1994-08-25) 25 August 1994 (age 26) 1.80 m 35 33 Wisła Płock
3 P Marino Marić (1990-06-01) 1 June 1990 (age 31) 1.96 m 67 125 MT Melsungen
4 CB Domagoj Duvnjak (1988-06-01) 1 June 1988 (age 33) 1.97 m 197 710 THW Kiel
8 CB Ante Gadža (1992-08-26) 26 August 1992 (age 28) 1.95 m 2 6 HC Vardar
12 GK Ivan Pešić (1989-03-17) 17 March 1989 (age 32) 1.94 m 47 1 Meshkov Brest
13 RW Zlatko Horvat (1984-09-25) 25 September 1984 (age 36) 1.79 m 191 590 Metalurg Skopje
14 LW Karlo Godec (1999-01-14) 14 January 1999 (age 22) 1.94 m 1 2 RK Dubrava
15 RW Fran Mileta (2000-08-14) 14 August 2000 (age 20) 1.82 m 1 1 RK Nexe Našice
16 GK Matej Mandić 2.02 m 1 RK Izviđač
25 P Tomislav Kusan (1994-12-16) 16 December 1994 (age 26) 2.00 m 2 4 RK Eurofarm Pelister
21 P Veron Načinović (2000-03-07) 7 March 2000 (age 21) 2.00 m 2 1 RK Celje Pivovarna Laško
26 LW Manuel Štrlek (1988-12-01) 1 December 1988 (age 32) 1.82 m 173 600 Telekom Veszprém
27 RW Ivan Čupić (1986-03-27) 27 March 1986 (age 35) 1.78 m 156 577 RK Vardar 1961
28 P Željko Musa (1986-01-08) 8 January 1986 (age 35) 2.00 m 138 113 SC Magdeburg
30 LB Marko Mamić (1994-03-06) 6 March 1994 (age 27) 2.02 m 65 104 SC DHfK Leipzig
31 RB Luka Šebetić (1994-05-26) 26 May 1994 (age 27) 1.98 m 25 11 Tremblay-en-France
33 CB Luka Cindrić (1993-07-05) 5 July 1993 (age 27) 1.83 m 74 175 Barça
34 P Ilija Brozović (1991-05-26) 26 May 1991 (age 30) 1.96 m 42 50 TSV Hannover-Burgdorf
36 RW Vlado Matanović (1995-05-25) 25 May 1995 (age 26) 1.82 m 11 9 PPD Zagreb
39 LW David Mandić (1997-09-14) 14 September 1997 (age 23) 1.87 m 33 92 PPD Zagreb
40 P Nikola Grahovac (1998-12-14) 14 December 1998 (age 22) 2.01 m 1 1 PPD Zagreb
41 CB Tin Lučin (1999-08-26) 26 August 1999 (age 21) 1.96 m 2 7 CB Ademar León
42 RB Mateo Maraš (2000-12-17) 17 December 2000 (age 20) 2.03 m 2 5 RK Eurofarm Pelister
45 LB Halil Jaganjac (1998-06-22) 22 June 1998 (age 22) 2.00 m 19 35 RK Nexe Našice
51 RB Ivan Martinović (1998-01-06) 6 January 1998 (age 23) 1.94 m 5 9 TSV Hannover-Burgdorf
17 LB Josip Šarac (1998-02-24) 24 February 1998 (age 23) 2.01 m 13 6 Celje Pivovarna Laško
53 P Marin Šipić (1996-04-29) 29 April 1996 (age 25) 1.90 m 31 56 PPD Zagreb}
55 GK Marin Šego (1985-08-02) 2 August 1985 (age 35) 1.98 m 54 2 Montpellier Handball
57 Fabijan Grubišić 1.93 m 2 1
94 CB Domagoj Pavlović (1993-03-21) 21 March 1993 (age 28) 1.90 m 3 8 MT Melsungen

Coaching staff

As of 8 April 2021
Head coach Hrvoje Horvat
Assistant coach Ivano Balić
Goalkeeping coach Nino Pavelić
Conditioning coaches Miljenko Rak
Danijel Brajković
Physiotherapists Goran Krušelj
Matija Rajnović
Team manager Ivica Maraš
Sporting director Igor Vori
Technique Zdravko Mirilović

Head coaches



Major tournaments
Minor tournaments

Medal-winning squads

Notable players

Domagoj Duvnjak, the current national team captain


  • Most appearances

    Name Matches Position Years
    Igor Vori246LP2001–2018
    Venio Losert211GK1995–2015
    Slavko Goluža204CB, LP1991–2006
    Ivano Balić198CB2001–2012
    Domagoj Duvnjak197CB2006–present
    Blaženko Lacković195OB2001–2013
    Zlatko Horvat191W2005–present
    Valter Matošević191GK1992–2004
    Goran Perkovac190LB1992–2000
    Vedran Zrnić189W2001–2010
    Mirza Džomba185W1997–2008
    Petar Metličić175OB1997–2009
    Davor Dominiković174D, OB1997–2008
    Manuel Štrlek173W2010–present
    Jakov Gojun168D2008–2018
    Mirko Alilović164GK2006–2018
    Drago Vuković157CB/OB, D2004–2014
    Ivan Čupić156W2005–present
    Mirko Alilović152GK2006–2018
    Božidar Jović151LP1995–2003
    Zvonimir Bilić147OB1995–2002
    Nenad Kljaić145LP1991–2001
    Tonči Valčić144OB1999–2010
    Marko Kopljar137OB2008–2018
    Vlado Šola132GK1991–2006
    Denis Špoljarić131D2003–2009
    Denis Buntić131OB2005–2018
    Patrik Ćavar120W1991–2003
    Goran Šprem109W1999–2009
    Alvaro Načinović105LP1992–2000
    Renato Sulić100LP2001–2008
  • Top scorers

    Name Goals Average Position Years
    Mirza Džomba7193.89W1997–2008
    Domagoj Duvnjak7103.35CB2006–present
    Patrik Ćavar6395.33W1991–2003
    Manuel Štrlek6003.16W2010–present
    Zlatko Horvat5902.51W2008–present
    Igor Vori590P2001-2018
    Ivan Čupić5773.90W2005–present
    Blaženko Lacković5712.93OB2001–2013
    Vedran Zrnić5712.03W2001–2010
    Slavko Goluža545CB, LB1991–2006
    Ivano Balić5352.70CB2001–2012
    Zvonimir Bilić500OB1995–2002
    Petar Metličić4712.83OB1997–2009
    Iztok Puc3252.23OB1991–1998
    Marko Kopljar322RB2005–2018
    Denis Buntić293RB2005–2018
    Irfan Smajlagić290W1991–2000
  • Players that played for Croatian National Handball Team after the breakup of Yugoslavia and
    collected 100+ caps combined for Yugoslavian and Croatian National Handball Teams.

    Name Matches Position Years
    Nenad Kljaić214OB1987–2001
    Valter Matošević213GK1989–2004
    Goran Perkovac202OB1988–2000
    Zlatko Saračević181OB1981–2000
    Mirko Bašić180GK1979–2000
    Iztok Puc147OB1988–1998
    Alvaro Načinović144P1988-2000
    Tonči Peribonio139GK1986–1994
    Patrik Ćavar135W1989–2004
    Irfan Smajlagić123W1987–2001
    Zoran Mikulić62OB1989–2001
    Boris Jarak401988–1996

    Record against other teams

    As of 20 March 2021

    Positive total balance (more wins)
    Neutral total balance (equal W/L ratio)
    Negative total balance (more losses)
    National team Total Olympic Games World Championship European Championship Mediterranean Games Qualifications
    Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L Pld W D L

    Algeria 4301 0000 2200 1001 1100
    Angola 1100 0000 1100 0000 0000
    Argentina 5302 1100 4202 0000
    Australia 3300 0000 3300 0000
    Austria 7700 0000 1100 1100 4400
    Bahrain 3300 0000 2200 1100
    Belgium 2200 0000 0000 2200
    Belarus 121020 0000 2200 3300 6420
    Bosnia and
    2110 0000 1100 0000 0000 0000
    Brazil 3201 1100 1100 0000
    Bulgaria 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
    Chile 2200 0000 1100 1100
    China 2200 1100 1100 0000
    Cuba 3210 0000 3210 0000
    Czech Republic 7601 0000 2101 3300 2200
    Denmark 199010 3300 6204 9405 1001
    Egypt 7601 0000 4400 3201 0000
    Finland 4400 0000 0000 0000 4400
    France 2510114 5203 7403 11218 0000 0000
    Germany 15816 1100 5311 4301 0000
    Greece 6600 1100 0000 0000 3300 2200
    Greenland 1100 0000 1100 0000
    Hungary 181314 3300 7601 4211 4202
    Iceland 8710 1100 1100 4310 3201
    Iran 1100 0000 1100 0000
    Italy 3300 0000 0000 0000 2200 0000
    Japan 5410 0000 2110 2200
    Kuwait 3300 1100 2200 0000
    Latvia 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
    Lithuania 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
    Macedonia 6600 0000 1100 2200 0000 2101
    Montenegro 9801 0000 0000 3300 0000 0000
    Morocco 3300 0000 3300 0000 0000
    Netherlands 2200 0000 0000 0000 2200
    Nigeria 1100 0000 1100 0000
    Norway 181125 0000 3012 8611 3201
    Poland 9702 2101 3201 4400 0000
    Portugal 5311 0000 0000 3210 2101
    Qatar 3201 1001 2200 0000
    Romania 6600 0000 1100 1100 4400
    Russia 16916 2200 6402 7214 1100
    Saudi Arabia 2200 0000 2200 0000
    Serbia * 14824 1100 3111 6303 1100 2110
    Slovakia 5500 0000 1100 0000 4400
    Slovenia 15906 1100 3201 5302 2101 4202
    South Korea 5401 2200 3201 0000
    Spain 281729 4301 10802 11425 1001 3300
    Sweden 14716 2101 4301 3201 0000
    Switzerland 4400 1100 0000 1100 2200
    Tunisia 9900 2200 2200 2200 1100
    Turkey 6600 0000 0000 0000 0000 6600
    Ukraine 3201 0000 1001 2200 0000
    United States 2200 1100 1100 0000
    Total (53) 3592591882
    * includes games against Serbia and Montenegro

    Biggest wins

    Double digit goal difference

    Olympic Games World Championship European Championship Mediterranean Games Qualifications
    • +19 vs. Brasil (33–14) 2008
    • +11 vs. China (33–22) 2008
    • +11 vs. Denmark (32–21) 2012
    • +10 vs. South Korea (31–21) 2012
    • +29 vs. USA (41–12) 2001
    • +27 vs. Australia (42–15) 2011
    • +23 vs. Australia (36–13) 2013
    • +21 vs. Cuba (41–20) 2009
    • +20 vs. Argentina (38–18) 2011
    • +20 vs. Australia (38–18) 2005
    • +19 vs. Iran (41–22) 2015
    • +19 vs. Kuwait (40–21) 2009
    • +18 vs. South Korea (41–23) 2007
    • +15 vs. Chile (37–22) 2017
    • +14 vs. Egypt (30–16) 1995
    • +13 vs. Argentina (36–23) 2005
    • +13 vs. China (34–21) 1997
    • +13 vs. Marocco (35–22) 2007
    • +12 vs. Marocco (33–21) 1995
    • +11 vs. Algeria (31–20) 2013
    • +10 vs. Spain (32–22) 2009
    • +14 vs. Poland (37–23) 2016
    • +11 vs. Belarus (33–22) 2014
    • +10 vs. Macedonia (34–24) 2016
    • +10 vs. Serbia (32–22) 2018
    • +8 vs. Greece (33–25) 2005
    • +20 vs. Chile (35–15) 2012
    • +20 vs. Finland (34–14) 2010
    • +19 vs. Finland (39–20) 2010
    • +15 vs. Japan (37–22) 2008
    • +14 vs. Japan (36–22) 2012
    • +14 vs. Turkey (40–26) 2016
    • +13 vs. Slovakia (34–21) 2010
    • +12 vs. Greece (32–20) 2010
    • +12 vs. Romania (34–22) 2012
    • +11 vs. Algeria (37–26) 2008
    • +11 vs. Netherlands (35–24) 2016
    • +11 vs. Slovakia (32–21) 2014
    • +10 vs. Bahrain (32–22) 2016
    • +10 vs. Turkey (32–22) 2016

    Biggest losses

    Olympic Games World Championship European Championship Mediterranean Games Qualifications
    • -9 vs. Sweden (18–27) 1996
    • -7 vs. Qatar (23–30) 2016
    • -6 vs. Spain (29–35) 2008
    • -12 vs. Denmerk (26–38) 2021
    • -11 vs. Russia (20–31) 1997
    • -15 vs. Russia (14–29) 1998
    • -12 vs. FR Yugoslavia (22–34) 2002
    • -10 vs. Denmark (20–30) 2008
    • -7 vs. Spain (21–28) 2005


    The Croatia national handball team has received numerous award throughout the years.

    Senior squad

    U-19 squad

    See also


    1. "CROATIA SEEK CONSISTENCY ON THEIR WAY TO THE TOP". Retrieved 20 November 2015.
    2. "Dokumentarac o povijesnom uspjehu kada su Hrvati šokirali sportski svijet". Retrieved 8 March 2016.
    3. "Rukometna reprezentacija perjanica je hrvatskog sporta, a London je nova prilika za povijest". Retrieved 27 July 2012.
    4. "Kladionice Francuska i Danska opaki favoriti Hrvatska visoko". 24 sata. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
    5. "Handball: France beat Croatia to advance to European championship semis". 25 January 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
    6. "Povijest rukometa". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 6 January 2016.
    7. "Razvoj rukometa". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
    8. "Povijest rukometa". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
    9. "Počeci djelovanja Hrvatskog rukometnog saveza". (in Croatian).
    10. "Prije 70 godina odigrana prva rukometna utakmica u Zagrebu". (in Croatian).
    11. "ZNAČAJNIH 80 GODINA RUKOMETA". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
    12. "International Handball Federation". IHF.
    13. "Uspeh rukometašica". (in Serbian).
    14. "Od Od Rijeke do Herninga: Kako je Hrvatska postala pretplaćena na rukometne". (in Croatian).
    15. Olimpijski Komitet Srbije(1)
    16. Olimpijski Komitet Srbije(2)
    17. Hrvatski Olimpijski Odbor
    18. Olimp(MI)
    19. MI 1979.
    20. Olimpijska Odličja
    21. "Olimpijski Treneri". Archived from the original on 20 September 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
    22. Rukometne Medalje
    23. Svjetske Medalje
    24. Todor Arhiv
    25. Njemački Arhiv
    26. Enciklopedija Fizičke Kulture
    27. Irislav Dolenec
    28. Jezdimir Stanković
    29. Branislav Pokrajac
    30. Ivan Snoj
    31. Pero Janjić(1)
    32. Pero Janjić(2)
    33. Zdravko Malić(1) Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
    34. Zdravko Malić(2)
    35. Josip Milković SP 1974.
    36. "Božo Peter SP 1961". Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
    37. Ivan Uremović SP 1967.
    38. Sastav SP 1978.
    39. Serdarušić SP 1978.
    40. Jugoslavija-Island
    41. Jugoslavija-DDR
    42. Jugoslavija-Španjolska
    43. Jugoslavija-SSSR
    44. "Protiv Japana: Na današnji su dan prvi put zaigrali "kauboji"". 24 sata (in Croatian).
    45. "Povijest". (in Croatian).
    46. "Na današnji dan MOO je priznao Hrvatski olimpijski odbor". (in Croatian).
    47. "Na današnji dan MOO je priznao Hrvatski olimpijski odbor". (in Croatian).
    48. "Men Handball I European Championship 1994 Portugal".
    49. "Men Handball XIV World Championship 1995 Iceland".
    50. "Men Handball II European Championship 1996 Spain".
    52. "Atlanta 1996". (in Croatian).
    53. "Nije se ponovila Atlanta 1996 i put preko Francuza do prvog olimpijskog zlata za Hrvatsku". (in Croatian).
    54. "Povijesne Igre u SAD-u: Zbog rukometaša smo prvi put čuli 'Lijepu našu'". (in Croatian).
    55. "SPOMENAR: Gdje su danas pripadnici slavne generacije iz Atlante?". (in Croatian).
    56. "Čarobnjak iz Umaga: Lino Červar". (in Croatian).
    57. Struka Na SP 2003.
    58. "Hrvatska – Saudijska Arabija: U nastavku osigurana pobjeda". (in Croatian).
    59. "Hrvatska prvak svijeta!". (in Croatian).
    60. "Atena 2004. Novo zlato za rukomet i najveća berba medalja do tada". (in Croatian).
    61. Struka Na OI 2004.
    62. "Hrvatska srebrna; Metličić: Suci nam nisu dozvolili igrati, dali smo sve od sebe". Retrieved 1 February 2009.
    63. "Francuzi najbolji, Hrvatska druga na svijetu!". Retrieved 1 February 2009.
    64. "SP 2021 Konačan popis igrača za Svjetsko prvenstvo". (in Croatian). 20 March 2021.
    65. "Team Roster Croatia" (PDF). 20 March 2021. Retrieved 20 March 2021.