20/12/2020

Croatian dream ends in bronze medal

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH REVIEW: A 25:19 win against EHF EURO 2020 hosts took Croatia to their first ever medal at any competition, after they ranked last at the two previous editions

Croatia celebrate a historic first-ever championship medal. Photo © Jure Erzen / kolektiff

Croatia won their first medal at any major international championships with a 25:19 victory against EHF EURO 2020 hosts Denmark on Sunday afternoon, making it two EHF EURO medals for their country in one year.

The score was level 10 minutes into the second half, before Denmark lost their power and found the goal only once more. Denmark lost the chance to clinch their first EURO medal since 2004 with the loss and first medal since bronze at the World Championship 2013. 

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH

Croatia vs Denmark 25:19 (11:11)

  • from a level score of 18:18 with 19 minutes remaining, Croatia decided the bronze medal as they kept Denmark scoreless from that point. Denmark finally broke the drought in the 58th minute, but with the score at 25:19, it was too late and Croatia knew the medal was theirs
  • the first half saw the teams alternate between periods of dominance and of fighting to come back, with each side holding a three-goal lead once before a level last few minutes leading up to the break
  • Denmark had the upper hand as clear at 7:4 in the 17th minute of the first half, before Croatia found the way to beat the defence mainly through line player goals, wing shots and breakthroughs. At the other end of the court, Croatia stopped Denmark’s fast break and fast restart game completely
  • Croatia’s Tea Pijevic saved seven shots in the first half, while Denmark’s Sandra Toft stopped an uncharacteristic low of three. When Toft’s rate dropped to 16 per cent early in the second half, Althea Reinhardt replaced the captain, recording seven saves as Pijevic finished with 14
  • Croatia recorded possession at 56 per cent to Denmark’s 44 per cent at the 40-minute mark. The hosts rapidly lost energy as Croatia continue to force hard work in defence, which in turn impacted the power of Denmark’s attack

Two medals for Croatia in 2020; two new bronze medallists

Before the EHF EURO 2020 began, nobody – even the team or coach themselves – could have foreseen that the bronze medal would be travelling back to Croatia.

After their opening victory over Hungary, captain Katarina Jezic said “this is not the end of the story” and those words could not have been more accurate. With the win versus Hungary, Croatia ended the series of two EHF EURO tournaments with no victories, and then they just kept on winning.

In the end, Croatia lost only two games in the entire EHF EURO 2020 – to the finalists, Norway in the main round and France in the semi-final.

With that, Croatia secured two EHF EURO medals in one year, after the men’s side were defeated by Spain in the final in Stockholm on January 26. Also, both EHF EURO bronze medals went to first-time medallists, as Norway clinched third in the men’s event.

Aside from the medals, Croatia’s teams have together given us some of the most memorable matches of the EHF EUROs this year – on the men’s side, the classic main round game against Germany and the semi-final battle against Norway stand out, while here in Denmark the round 2 victory for Croatia over world champions the Netherlands was easily one of the biggest shocks in the opening stages, before the historic win against Germany to book the semi-final. And now, the history-making bronze-medal game.

Match reaction

Croatia line player and captain Katarina Jezic said: “We are used to see our men’s team like winners and always playing good and being on the top level, but the new thing is now we became also one who will get a medal and this is what it means for our country and for us as well. It’s not many people who knew we are coming to the EURO and now we are coming back with a medal around our neck. Of course it means a lot for all of us – the feeling is amazing. I think nobody of us is aware of what we have done.”

Denmark coach Jesper Jensen said: “It was a little bit hard, because we did not expect it. It is a tough feeling to end the tournament like this. We played so good throughout the competition, but we ended it with three bad halves. Croatia are a good team, their coach did his best. But if we played better, we could have earned the bronze medal. We did not settle with the being the favourites for the game.”

written by Courtney Gahan / jh