Four rounds of the HNL have been played since the first league football in Croatia returned from the break caused by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and Varaždin proved to be the most pleasant surprise in that period of the post-crown.
Since the return of football, Samir Toplak’s team has recorded two victories, 2: 3 against Hajduk in Poljud and 3: 0 against Istria in Varaždin, 0: 0 draw with Rijeka at home and 1: 3 defeat against Dinamo, also in Varaždin.
Varaždin’s rise and Inter’s fall
Before the break, Varaždin was last on the table with the same number of points as Istria and two less than the eighth-placed Inter from Zaprešić. At the moment, Varaždin is in eighth place with 24 points, two more than the ninth Istria and even seven more than Zaprešić’s Inter.
It should also be noted that Varaždin won 12 points in the 21st round played before Samir Toplak took over the team, the same number as he won in the nine rounds under Toplak.
Without the crown, Toplak would not have enough time
“I’m aware that we did a great job, the crown helped us, without it we wouldn’t be able to create this game we created, we got six weeks to work that we used to the maximum. Since my arrival we have won 12 points more than Inter, that is simply perfect “, said Toplak after yesterday’s victory over Istria and emphasized what was the key to this sudden turn in the game of Varaždin.
It is, of course, a coronavirus pandemic that stopped playing official matches, but it could not stop individual football training and work on some coaching ideas that Toplak had, but without the crown he would never have had time to implement them. The whole story can be summed up that Varaždin worked most seriously when it was the hardest and is now reaping the fruits of that work.
Domagoj Drožđek, Petar Mamić, Ivan Posavec and Tonio Teklić are players who know how to play in the HNL, and there is also Jorge Obregon who currently looks like one of the best strikers in the league. This was not the case before the break when the whole team was physically and mentally at the bottom, there were a series of defeats under Luka Bonačić, and Toplak celebrated in the first five games only in the first against Inter, in other matches his team did not look particularly good.
“Before the game, I called Teklić, Posavac and Drožđek as debtors, and now they were all at the top level. It would be great if we caught continuity so that it would always be so. Obregon, too, no matter what I say, is a gift from heaven. When I came, he was at the bottom, he was not ready, he speaks Spanish, we had a hard time communicating, but we used this crown to prepare him. And we got a great player, “Toplak told Index after the demolition of Hajduk in Poljud. judging by the first next game, continuity doesn’t seem like something impossible to catch.
Joker from the bench
Apart from the fact that Varaždin woke up those who were known to be valid, as mentioned above, and the goalkeeper Nevistić defended fantastically in the continuation, he also made an important step by discovering Vinko Petković.
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This is a 24-year-old striker who arrived in Varaždin this winter from Hrvatsko Dragovoljac and proved to be an ideal joker from the bench with an impeccable sense of opportunity. Under Toplak, he learned to take advantage of the opportunities he gets, so yesterday he managed to score a goal against Istria.
How does Varaždin play?
However, more than the fact that Varaždin scored three goals for Istria, the fact that it was the second consecutive game in which the Varaždin team scored three goals against the opponent is impressive. In addition, it is interesting that Istria dominated against Varaždin for most of the match, but then it was interrupted by a sly goal by Obregon in the 54th minute.
After that, Ivan Prelec’s team could not catch the end of the game, so Varaždin scored two more goals in the 85th and 95th minute to demonstrate what kind of team it is. Both goals fell after the counterattack that the Varaždin players dragged 70 meters across almost the entire field, all after 85 and 95 minutes of play.
It can be said that Varaždin, with its approach to “preparations” that no one could have expected in the middle of the season, managed to “hack” the HNL and develop internal reserves of playing quality to such an extent that its direct competitors (Istria and Inter) cannot cope.
“Before I came, they told me not to take over Varaždin because that team is worth nothing. Resentment worked in me, I wanted to come and show that this team can do a lot,” said Toplak after the victory over Istria.
And he succeeded. He woke up Varaždin and used the opportunity given to him by the crown to turn him into a team that currently does not look like a team fighting to stay, but as a group of serious professionals who could fight with Gorica for sixth place.
That in itself doesn’t sound so impressive, but when you consider that it’s a move made in nine rounds, then it’s a significant success, especially for the HNL.
Varaždin will meet Inter in the next round and if both teams continue in the rhythm in which they have played so far, that match will be an unofficial confirmation that Samir Toplak, just like several times before with Inter, survived the HNL again.
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