Croatia were the only team to be defeated in all of their games at the previous two EHF EURO events, but brought that unenviable run to an end with a surprise 24:22 win against Hungary to open group C at the 2020 edition.
While they surely respected their opponents prior to the clash, Hungary could not expect to find themselves level at half-time with Croatia and they struggled to gain composure. A run of saves from Croatian goalkeeper Tea Pijevic saw the door for the advantage open, and demoralised Hungary so far a comeback proved impossible.
Hungary vs Croatia 22:24 (12:12)
- in their first official match as co-coaches of Hungary, Gábor Danyi and Gábor Elek opted for experience to start, with Zsuzsanna Tomori on right back ahead of high-scoring Katrin Klujber
- Hungary had the stronger start, leading 6:4 in the 12th minute, before – with goals pouring in from all positions – Croatia fought back to level and the score was locked at the break
- early in the second half, four straight saves from Croatia goalkeeper Tea Pijevic caused trouble for Hungary
- Hungary scored just four goals from the 33rd minute to the 57th, 19:23, and despite a run of goals in the final minutes it was too late to come back
- it is Croatia’s first win against Hungary since 2012, and an unexpected two points in their account to start the EURO
Rebuilding race on display
Both Hungary and Croatia have been in something of a rebuilding phase for some time and are among the youngest at the EHF EURO 2020. For Hungary, it seemed nerves from the pressure of the opening game may have gotten the best of the side.
Players such as Noémi Háfra and Katrin Klujber have shone in the DELO EHF Champions League with FTC. Although they work daily with centre back Aniko Kovacsics at the club, the flow in attack – and importantly, conversion of chances – was not quite there.
Klujber managed a big tally of nine goals, but six were scored from the penalty line, while Háfra contributed one goal.
Hungary coach Gábor Danyi said: “We made many unforced errors and Croatia were bright enough to fulfil their opportunities. Though it was the first match in a big competition for us, it’s not an explanation for the way we played. The tournament continues so we will have to keep our heads up and look forward to the coming matches.”
Croatia coach Nenad Sostaric said: "The key to the victory was all the players, but basically tactically we were prepared, coming back to the roots, coming back to 3-2-1 defence that was invented in Croatia and used all over the ex-Yugoslavia. We did it very well."