Great Britain men’s volleyball head coach, Harry Brokking, is convinced Croatia will provide a major challenge for his team when they launch their European League campaign at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield this weekend.
The Dutch coach has only had limited time to work with his squad since they returned from their respective European clubs and the double-header with Croatia (tomorrow and Sunday at 4pm) will set the tone for the season.
Brokking masterminded a clean sweep of the Croatians in the same competition two years ago as GB won four matches out of four, results which reverberated around Europe.
But next year’s Olympics in London have not only focused Brokking’s squad, who qualify automatically as hosts, but those teams with ambitions of qualifying for 2012, Croatia included.
He said: “I won’t know how strong they will be until I see their final team lines but I know it will be a completely different Croatia than the team we faced in the European League before when they were without some of their top professionals.
“Their federation seems to have money now and they have a new coach [Radovan Malevic] who the players all wanted. So I expect tough matches against them on Saturday and Sunday.
“But that goes for all our opponents in the European League this year as Slovenia and Belgium are also building towards the European Championships in September.”
The GB team is in good form after beating China 3-1 on Wednesday and they won a four-match series against Norway away from home last weekend.
Even when they went two sets down in their final match in Bo, the GB team came back to win it, which pleased Brokking.
“The matches were a chance to try a few things in preparation for the season and winning all four matches was a bonus but it gives us a lot of confidence heading into the difficult European League campaign,” he said.