At the moment, Croatia is in an extremely difficult situation in the standings, although three of the four teams go to the next round of qualifications. However, Finland, Sweden, and Slovenia have a 2-1 ratio, and Croatia 0-3.
Croatia fell behind from the beginning of the game, with Sweden up 6-0 and 9-3. Croatia managed to reduce the gap relatively quickly but also got into new problems after Sweden took the 24-15 lead.
Croatia struggled, especially in the attack, but somehow held their own and went into halftime at 35-35.
The third quarter caused a lot of trouble for Croatia, and in the opening eight minutes, Croatia scored only five points (all five by Šakić). Sweden was close to a double-digit advantage during most of the quarter. Nevertheless, Croatia found the strength for a new comeback.
With a three-pointer by Gnjidić, Croatia equalized to 60-60 six minutes before the end. Smajlagić also reduced the score thanks to a three-pointer for 63-65, but in the end, Damir Mulaomerović’s side was ultimately left without the win.
Croatia’s shooting average was below 37 percent and the team struggled in the attack. Tomislav Zubčić was the only one to reach 20 points and four rebounds. No other Croatia player reached double-digits. Gnjidić, Krušlin, Smajlagić, and Šakić scored eight each, with Krušlin adding six rebounds.
Viktor Gaddefors scored 16 points for Sweden with five rebounds, while Simon Birgander added 12 points.
The three best national teams from each group will move on to the next phase of the competition. The top three teams in Group C will create a new group with the top three teams in Group D. Points from the first round are carried over to the rest of the competition.
Croatia and Sweden meet again on Monday, February 28, in Norrkoping.
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