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Men’s World League Super Finals – Meet the Teams: Croatia

After the independence of Croatia, the national water polo team competed at its first tournament and also its first finals at the 1993 Mediterranean Games, followed by the 1993 European Championships where Croatia won 5th place. Croatia has since became an Olympic champion (2012), double World champion (2007, 2017) and European champion (2010). The team holds a record streak of winning 6 medals in a row at the World Championships, and has reached semifinals in over 60% of appearances at the Olympic Games, World Championships and European Championships altogether since 2017. It is the first Croatian national team in any Olympic team sport that has won gold medals at all three big competitions. The only competition Croatia has yet to win is the World Cup where the national team won silver medal in 2010.

Head coach Ivica Tucak is a former Croatian water poloist who is currently coaching the Croatian national team. Tucak started in 1985 for junior team of Šibenik, of the Yugoslav League. In 1988 he signed with Crvena zvezda, and when he left in 1990, went to Italy to play for Palermo, Como, Genova and Milan. 9 years later, after being back in Šibenik he became Medveščak Zagreb’s player in 2002. He was never a national team member. Tucak started his career as head coach in 2007 for Šibenik.

The national team line up is the following:

Marko Bijač is the strongest player in the world. He earned the 2017 LEN Award as the best goalkeeper, which is equivalent to the Golden Ball in soccer. He won the Champions League in 2016 with Jug Dubrovnik.

Ivan Marcelić started playing at the age of 10 at Mladost in Zagreb. He participated at the European championships in Stuttgart, Germany, and got third place with the national team.

After being proclaimed the Champions League title in 2016 with his team, Jug Dubrovnik, goalkeeper Toni Popadić went to the Spanish League with the intention of improving and winning both minutes and prominence. He became a key member of the team.

Andro Bušlje (Captain) made his national team debut in 2005, and competed in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. In London 2012, Croatia won the gold medal. Since 2016 he plays for Greek powerhouse Olympiacos, with whom he won the 2017–18 LEN Champions League. He is the only water polo player in the world to have won 6 FINA World Championship medals (2 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze), an all-time record as of 2018.

Ivan Buljubašić plays for Primorje. He had previously played for Mladost. It is 198 cm tall and weighs 108 kg. He was the European Champion 2010 and the Olympic winner in 2012.

Marko Macan was part of the Croatian team at the 2016 Summer Olympics, where the team won the silver medal.

Hrvoje Benić plays for Jug Dubrovnik.In 2016, Jug is the winner of the European Champions League, the Croatian Championships, the Cup and the Regional League, and the European Super Cup. In 2017, 2nd place in the Champions League was won, and domination in domestic competitions continued. With Croatia’s national team, he won gold at the LEN European Cup, playing in Rijeka 2018.

Luka Lončar played for Mladost, and now plays for Jug Dubrovnik. He made his national team debut in 2013 at the Mediterranean Games in Mersina where the team won gold. He won the title of the Champions League with Jug. He was declared the best player of the Adriatic League during the 2016/17 season. Won silver at the 2016 Olympics, and gold in 2017 at the World Championships in Budapest.

Josip Vrlić was part of the Brazilian team at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, and the 2016 Summer Olympics. He won a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. His brother, Mislav Vrlić, is also water polo player. He is the heaviest water polo player in the universe of this sport. He currently plays CNA Barceloneta.

Ivan Krapić is a player for Jadran Split, and was a Rijeka Promorje center. In the 2012/2013, he won the Croatian Cup and the Adriatic League. He has been a member of the Croatian team so far only in the Mediterranean Games 2013, where Croatia won gold with all the victories.

Maro Joković is left-handed and plays in the right wing position. He competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics and won a gold medal in 2012 and a silver in 2016. He held the world title in 2007 and the European title in 2010. At the age of 14, he joined VK Jug Dubrovnik and has been there since.

Xavier García Gadea is a Spanish-Croatian water polo player. He was a member of the Spanish national team between 1999 and 2013. In 2003, García, then playing for CNA Barceloneta, ended up in fifth place with the national side at the 2003 World Aquatics Championships in his home town of Barcelona. Since 2010 García has played in Croatia. After being left out of the Spanish national team in 2013, García obtained Croatian citizenship in 2016 to be able to take part in the Rio Olympics, facing Spain in the group stage. Currently is a player for Jug Dubrovnik.

Lovre Miloš began playing water polo at the age of 10, and competed with HAVK Mladost in Zagreb. He played on the Croatian Junior National Team at the 2012 FINA World Youth Championships in Perth, Australia. He says his biggest thrill so far in his athletic career is, “winning the gold medal at the 2011 European Junior Water Polo Championships.”

Andrija Bašić is a young player who started his career early, joining Mladost and playing for the Croatian national team. He signed with Greek team Vouliagmeni. As talented as he is, he is surely thriving fast, considering the fact that Hrvoje Koljanin is his coach.

Anđelo Šetka is currently a Split Adriatic player and formerly played for Primorje, Split Adriatic (2000-2007) and Kotor Primorac (2007-2011). He won the Euroleague 2008/2009 with Primorje,and the European Super Cup in 2009.

Ante Vukičević has always played for Zagreb Mladost. In the 2011/2012 season he scored 18 goals in the Adriatic League and 12 in Euroleague. Next season (2012/13) was the shooter of 41 goals in the Adriatic League, 8 in the Croatian Championship and 3 in the Croatian Cup.

Loren Fatović despite being a shy guy from Dubrovnik, when he goes into the water, turns himself into a hurricane. He fell in love with waterpolo watching Jug Dubrovnik and his father Elvis, former champion and currently Australia’s head coach. He helped Croatia win the gold medal at Budapest World Championships; even earlier, at only 19, he contributed to Jug’s victory in Champions League 2016.

Luka Bukić is the son famous water polo player Perice Bukić. In his career he has only played for HAVK Mladost so far, and debuted in 2011 with 17 goals in the 12th round of the Adriatic League in the match against Sibenik (20-9). His national team debut in the Croatian national team was during the Mediterranean Games in 2013, where all the winnings were won gold. He is currently signed with Pro Recco (Italy).