Ask any Australian footballer who has plied their trade throughout Europe which nation they most fear coming up against, and chances are Croatia will be your top response.
That is the ultimate credit to the style of game that both the Knights and Queen’s play in every international fixture, combining their high skill level, toughness, and typified by a passion for their jumper which permeates around any field they take to.
The story will be no different in Cork this October, with the Croatian men and women both ambitious heading into their quest to become European champions.
Taking the reins from Knights star Tomislav Cvetko, who has been honing his craft with SANFL club Norwood, Euro Cup 2018 Captain, Ivan Ivos, described the sense of pride attached with captaining his country in Cork.
“Being a captain of the national team is an exceptional honour,” Ivos said.
“The responsibility is very big, on the ground and beyond, knowing that I am chosen as the one who everybody will follow. I feel proud!”
After what Ivos admits was a disappointing Euro Cup in 2017 following the Knights triumphs in Melbourne at the International Cup, the side is now “ready as never before” after an intensive training regime helped iron out the kinks identified after the Bordeaux campaign.
Now, the Knights are looking forward to showing their improvement to the rest of the world, and aren’t in the business of worrying about the opinions of others.
“It doesn’t matter if some national teams think we’re favourites or not, we are aware of our qualities… we’re coming in ambitious as at every Euro Cup” Ivos said.
“Our main strength is an ideal combination of experience from our older players and the potency from our new and young guys that already have had exceptional results from the national team.”
For their female counterparts, Euro Cup 2018 provides an opportunity to highlight just how far the game has progressed in the four years since women’s footy was first played in Croatia.
Queen’s captain, Matea Sedlaček, says that teamwork and the outstanding team spirit will be the greatest asset on their side as they look to improve on their previous best third-placed finish.
“We are feeling like one big family right now and the atmosphere is as good as it can get,” Sedlaček said.
“I think anything is possible, since that atmosphere in a team is maybe even more important than the technical and tactical part, in my opinion.
“Also, we surely play better than ever, we understand each other better than ever and with a little bit of luck I believe we can go far in the tournament.”
Euro Cup 2018
CIT Cork, Ireland
Saturday, October 13th
Stay across afleurope.org for all the build-up to Euro Cup 2018.
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe