Meet the team: Mix of experience and potential as a recipe for second SEHA title
Reigning Croatian champions are one of only four teams that have been a part of the SEHA – Gazprom League ever since it started all the way back in 2011. ‘Lions’ managed to climb the podium in 2013 in Skopje coming close a few more times but never again succeeding with their intention to go all the way. The last two seasons were however very good – Zagreb is clearly on the rise with two silver medals but more importantly two incredibly narrow finals against favoured Hungarians – Telekom Veszprem which is one of the reasons why PPD Zagreb and Telekom Veszprem will this season join the competition in quarter-finals, once the group stage is done.
The beginning of the season was somewhat rough for the team from the Croatian capital and as a result, Ivica Obrvan is no longer in the coaching seat for the ‘Lions’. New-old coaching name in Zagreb is Slavko Goluza, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Croatia as a player and former head coach of the Croatian national team. This is also his third mandate in PPD Zagreb after spending four seasons in Slovakia coaching Tatran Presov. Goluza is off to a hot start in the Maschineseeker EHF Champions League. Right before the winter break, PPD Zagreb managed to secure five points in only three matches defeating Telekom Veszprem at home on the way which helped them secure a great situation ahead of the final four games of the group stage which will be played in February.
The team appears to be a really great mix of experience and potential – a mix that looks good right now but also has room for improvement. The number 1 option between the posts is incredible Dino Slavic. Experienced Slovenian Aljaz Panjtar is also there with young Matej Mandic who recently recovered from an injury. Wingers are Timur Dibirov and Davor Cavar on the left with Ivan Cupic, Paolo Kraljevic, and Vlado Matanovic on the right. Once again, PPD Zagreb managed to combine a duo that knows how to go all the way no matter who stands on the other side of the court in Cupic and Dibirov bringing in the likes of Kraljevic, Cavar, and Matanovic who are ready to jump in and take care of their part whenever their number gets called. The primary option on the line is Zeljko Musa who is also a vital part of their defense along with his long-term national team colleague Jakov Gojun. Croatian national team player Nikola Grahovac and Bosnian national team player Adin Faljic are also there, ready to jump in. On the left-hand side of their attack is Zvonimir Srna receiving help from Edin Klis. PPD Zagreb also managed to sign Milos Kos, a fantastic and exciting young talent from Serbia who is not only here for the future but for the present as well. Kos was one of the key players for the Serbian junior national team in their journey to the European U-20 bronze back in July of 2022. Interesting is that, while Kos was the best scorer on his team, Stefan Dodic was crowned the MVP of the tournament. Now the two get to share the court once again as PPD Zagreb brought Dodic in as well, right before the beginning of the season. Apart from Dodic, Karpo Sirotic and Slovenian Aleks Kavcic are also in charge of the playmaking duties. On the right-hand side, PPD Zagreb once again has two national team players – Hungarian Csaba Leimeter and Croatian Luka Lovre Klarica.
Overall, PPD Zagreb has a solid team that can be a dangerous opponent for anyone. Slavko Goluza is known as a coach who knows how to bring out the best in his players. His recognizable style of solid defence and the quick transition is both pleasing to the eye and effective which is why Croatian champions have the right to hope to make an additional step forward both in Maschineseeker EHF Champions League and SEHA - Gazprom League.