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Croatia

Croatia are coming off an impressive Girls Under-18 European Championship triumph after beating defending champions and favourites Italy in the final in Zagreb in April.

The 3-0 win in the final completed a a fantastic tournament, which was their first ever major title in volleyball history.

Although the goal of the Croatian team was only to reach the podium they far exceeded themselves by claiming the gold infront of their home crowd.

The final between Croatia and Italy was the best ever final of the European Youth Championships in terms of ambiance, in a final where it was easy to forget that the players on court had an average age of ‘only’ 16 years.

Coach Nino Matjacic was lost for words after his team claimed the clean victory. ‘Now we won, everything looked easy,’ he stated. ‘But you cannot imagine how difficult it was to win an important tournament like this. We will only realize after we look back on it." Two Croatian players had a major influence on their team’s victory. Setter Diana Rescic played a great tournament, while Senna Ucic was by far the best player of the event. It was therefore no surprise that she was awarded Most Valuable Player.

The win signifies a new generation of women’s players for Croatia, who are being seen as successors to Barbara Jelic, Szjezana Mijic and Natasja Leto, the stars of the 90’s when Croatia claimed the silver medal at the senior European Championship three times in a row.

Croatian captain Diana Rescic (No 7) says the goal for her team for the 2003 World Championship is 'the same as the European Championship - we will try in each game to give our best.'