Paris Saint-Germain Handball now know who awaits them in the Velux EHF Champions League group stage. Here is the fourth instalment in our series of portraits of Paris Saint-Germain Handball's Group B opponents: European regulars Zagreb.
Zagreb in a few words
Despite having the reached the Velux EHF Champions League final four times in the late 90s, Zagreb have never managed to win the competition. However, the Croatian team are incredibly consistent in the competition - this campaign will be their 17th in a row! Their past seasons in Europe's top flight have yielded all manner of results: some near misses in reaching the Final4 as well as some early eliminations that saw them fail to progress from the group stage.
Last season was just such a season for Zagreb, stiff competition in a group also featuring the likes of Vardar and Barcelona making it extremely tough for the Croats, who ended the group stage with just two wins to their name. Paradoxically, the points they did take often came from very solid sides. In Round 5, for example, with Zlatko Horvat shooting 8 from 9, they dispatched the Rhien-Necker Löwen (30-26). In February, they toppled eventual Velux EHF Champions League runners-up Nantes thanks to a decisive save from Urh Kastelic in the final moments.
Among the club's bigger names, one cannot go past the emblematic Horvat. The 33-year-old right-winger has been playing for Zagreb, whose youth academy he graduated from, since 2002! In 2017-2018, he once again top-scored for his side in the Velux EHF Champions League with 54 goals. He has also been in fine form for his national team, winning six medals (four bronze and two silver) with Croatia at the Olympics and the World Championships.
Zagreb and Paris have crossed paths many times in their European campaigns. In 2015-2016 alone, they faced off no fewer than four times! First off in the group stage and then in the quarters, the double-headers that really interests us. After doing the hard part in the first leg, at Zagreb Arena, with a nine goals from Mikkel Hansen (20-28), the Rouge et Bleu played host to the Croatians at the Halle Carpentier with a place in the club's first-ever Final4 on the line. At the end of an epic encounter, Sergiy Sergiy Onufriyenko and his Parisian teammates clinched a draw (32-32) that was enough punch their ticket for Cologne!
Zagreb – Paris: Round 3
Paris – Zagreb: Round 12