Kvarnerska rivijera: Rijeka beats Abuja and wins for the 19th time
Kvarnerska rivijera: Miroslav Iličić named best player; Lovro Majkić named best goalkeeper
On Monday afternoon, the Pioneers of Rijeka returned to Croatia after a performance in the European finals of the Nike Premier Cup, ending up in fifth place. Winning fifth place in the competition of 20 teams from various European countries is a great result, especially if we take into consideration that Rijeka’s footballers were unlucky in a defeat by Rapid in the quarter-finals after a penalty shot. Ultimately, the placement in the world finals slipped away by only one place.
- To be the fifth team in the European finale is a great result and a great success. We are happy and content. In the end, it could have been better. We were destroyed by Rapid’s penalty shot in the quarter-finals. We gathered some strength and we are happy that in the end we managed to have two wins and beat Galatasaray – said Ivor Pandur, the goalkeeper of Rijeka’s Pioneers, who distinguished himself with amazing defence, especially during the last two matches in the tournament.
- We were sorry after Rapid, but it is what it is. We gave our best in that match, but penalties are always a lottery – said Pandur.
The matches against Brommapojkarna and Galatasaray with wins and a fifth place finish have brought another important finding, which is that the team has the character and strength to come back after a defeat. Rijeka’s footballers celebrated after penalties in both matches. It is sufficient to say that the equalizing score against Brommapojkarna arrived in the final moments of the match when the situation seemed hopeless.
- We prepared well and gave our best. It was hard to come back after Rapid defeated us, especially in the first match against Brommapojkarna. We even went to bed early and tried to rest better, but we were just not in our best shape. We scored in the end and celebrated after the penalty shot. Objectively, Galatasaray was a better team. In the end, we also got lucky – said Ivor who blocked two penalty shots against the Turkish team, and victoriously scored in the end. His role was important. Rijeka’s footballers did not start the celebration with a sprint towards their own goalkeeper for no reason.
- I have taken penalty shots before and, if I can remember correctly, I have never missed. I advised the boys to shoot low because the Turkish goalkeeper is tall and he does not have time to block the low shots – said Pandur.
Also, the trip to Denmark was a new experience for the young players – many of them flew by plane for the first time. After the tournament ended, Rijeka’s footballers attended the Danish championship between Brøndby and Aalborg.
- It was an interesting experience, especially the flight. It is beautiful, but also a bit cold up there. It was worth seeing all that and I am glad we had the opportunity to participate in such a tournament – said Pandur.
Rijeka still hopes to see Manchester and the world finals. In the case that one of the teams withdraws, which has been known to happen in the past, the club from Kantrida might jump in. That way, Rijeka might get a chance to perform at the world finals, which it deserves according to the play they presented, its character and boldness.