IC17 Tournament Review – Croatian Knights

2017 AFL International Cup 

Croatian Knights

1st Place – Men’s Division 2

 

BY CHRISTOPHER CHRYSOSTOMOU

A fairy tale ending to a brilliant tournament for the Croatian Knights, who claimed the Division 2 premiership in their first International Cup. The Knights were expected to be contending for the title, but few would have predicted they would clinch the crown in relative breeze.

The Knights didn’t get off to the best of starts at the International Cup, going down to China by a point in the opening match. The Knights were suffering from jet lag, after only arriving in Australia the day prior to the game. But Croatian coach Josip Kravar didn’t use the jet lag as an excuse for his side’s poor performance, instead criticising the players for not sticking to the game plan.

Needing a win in their second match, the Knights travelled to Eltham College to face Indonesia. The intensity of the Knights was prevalent from the opening bounce. The Knights midfielder’s gained the upper hand and helped Ivan Ivos kick six goals. Half back, Josip Habljak found his way forward and kicked three goals.

The Knights travelled to a windy Lyndhust for their third match against Sri Lanka. The Knights players found it difficult to adjust to the windy conditions and their kicking in front of goal was wayward. But their inaccuracy was not an issue, as their defence held Sri Lanka to only one goal for the match. Captain, Tomislav Cvetko, adjusted to the conditions better than most players and took plenty of marks, while player-coach Josip Kravar kicked three goals in only two quarters on the field.

The Knights finished second in pool 1 of division 2 and faced pool 2’s ladder leaders, Japan in the semi-final at Royal Park. The Japanese were favourites heading into the match, after clinching top spot ahead of Germany.

The Knights defence were rock solid in the previous two matches, with the pairing of Fran Tonkovic and Igor Galez stopping any opposition attacks. The Knights would save their best defensive performance for Japan, holding the Samurais to a sole behind, while scoring 66 points of their own.

Earlier in the tournament coach Kravar had said the Knights wanted to play the German’s on the Grand Final. Kravar got his wish and on a wet Friday afternoon, the Knights took the field to quash the highflying Eagles. Croatian fans watched on, as their side’s ferocious attack on the ball outmuscled the German’s.

The wet condition’s made marking difficult, but the forward pairing of Cvetko and Ivos showed their class by taking a total of 15 marks and kicking seven goals. Cvetko and Ivos were again supported by Habljak’s line breaking runs off half back. The midfield also worked in tandem and continued to supply the forwards with the ball.

As the siren sounded the Knights claimed a 66-point victory and celebrated by singing ‘The Mighty, Mighty Croats’ tune, that has become a fan favourite.

Tomislav Cvetko was named best on ground for his performance in the decider, while Josip Habljak was named in the World Team of the Tournament.

Kravar praised his team’s defence, which conceded a mere 27 points in their four victories. “We changed a few things in the backline after the first match and it has worked,” Kravar said.

The Knights will add the International Cup success to their trophy cabinet, which already includes two Euro Cups.

Best Forward:

Tomislav Cvetko proved to be a leader of the forwards throughout the tournament, with plenty of successful goals across all five rounds.

Best Midfielder: 

Dejan Pavkovic consistently earned his title as one of the Knights’ best players for his work in the midfield.

Best Defender:

Josip Habljak provided lots of run off half back and kicked plenty of goals.

Match Results: 

Round 1 – Croatian Knights 6.8.(44) defeated by China 7.3.(45)

Round 2 – Croatian Knights 14.7.(91) defeated Indonesia 2.0.(12)

Round 3 – Croatian Knights 9.5.(59) defeated Sri Lanka 1.0.(6)

Round 4 – Croatian Knights 9.12.(66) defeated Japan 0.1.(1)

Grand Final – Croatian Knights 11.8.(74) defeated Germany 1.2.(8)

Tournament Goalkickers: 

Ivan Ivos, Tomislav Cvetko, Josip Habljak, Josip Kravar, Tomislav Nedic, Bruno Bencic, Dejan Pavkoviv, Miro Jurmanovic, Viktor Kolcic, Josip Motik.

Best on Ground for IC17:

Tomislav Cvetko, Josip Habljak, Ivan Ivos, Dejan Pavkovic, Fran Tonkovic.

World Team Selection:

Josip Habljak (Fullback)