Croatia keep main round hopes alive with win against Serbia
In front of a Pick Arena packed with 8,143 spectators, Croatia delivered a 23:20 win over their close rivals Serbia – and put on a show for the travelling fans.
In a very defensive game, the goalkeepers made the difference. Vladimir Cupara pulled out some brilliant saves but Mate Sunjic stopped three shots in a row to allow Croatia to break away on the scoreboard, never to be caught again.
- even though Croatia led by two at the break, Serbia were almost constantly breathing down their necks. The difference at half-time was only made on two fastbreaks converted by Ivan Martinovic and Luka Cindric.
- Croatia made a decisive breakthrough in the middle of the second half, when their 34-year-old goalkeeper Mate Sunjic stopped three shots in a row to allow his team to take the biggest advantage of the game
- Croatia remained cold-blooded until the final whistle, with left-handers Ivan Cupic and Ivan Martinovic putting the nail in the coffin in the last five minutes.
- Luka Cindric, who scored three for Croatia on his return to the squad after testing positive for Covid-19 in early January, was elected Grundfos Player of the Match.
- both teams can still hope for main round qualification. Croatia will be through if they win against Ukraine on Monday, while Serbia will have to get a better result than Croatia on Monday if they want to book their ticket
Mate Sunjic, the good Croatian surprise
Mate Sunjic might be playing his first ever EHF EURO at 34, but on Saturday, he made the most of the evening. Coming on shortly before the break, the goalkeeper, who usually wears the colours of Ivry in the French second division, stopped three shots in a row in the second half.
Without conceding any goals for five minutes, he allowed Croatia to score a decisive breakthrough and to secure two very important points, simply by saving the right goals at the right time.
Today, we knew that the team better in defence would take the points. We knew it could be a game with loads of goals, so we really focused on defence.
It is hard to find the words. We are sad, we will not sleep tonight, and that is for sure. It was more than just a handball game, it was more than that. Obviously, we did not play how we wanted and this result is the cost of that.