Croatia Basketball Defeats Hungary, Dream of 2019 World Cup Still Alive

Daniela Rogulj

The Croatia basketball team played against Hungary in Osijek on Thursday for the 9th round of their 2019 World Cup qualifiers. 

The Croatia national basketball team defeated Hungary 74-69 (22-15, 22-23, 18-12, 12-19) in the 9th round of Group J for the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, thus keeping their hopes alive for ranking among the top three national teams in the group to compete in the World Cup in China next year, reports on November 29, 2018. 

The excellent Croatia side opened the ‘to be or not to be’ duel against Hungary in Osijek, and thanks to the incredibly inspired center Miro Bilan, Croatia achieved 15 points (20-5) in the first eight minutes of the game. Bilan was everywhere – he scored, rebounded, and controlled the Croatian rhythm. After Luka Babić’s first shot, the former Cedevita center scored 14 points for the 16-5 lead, which was followed by Marin Rozić’s three-pointer and free throws by Tomislav Zubčić thanks to a technical error by Hungarian coach Stojan Ivković. 

Unfortunately, the starting five that led Croatia (Junaković, Babić, Rozić, Perić, Bilan) managed to compromise the result in the final 90 seconds of the first quarter. Mate Kalajžić lost two balls, and in a minute and a half, Hungary managed 10-2 and trailed with a tolerable -7 (22-15).

At the beginning of the second quarter, Hungary took advantage of Croatia’s lack of aggressiveness, allowing Eilingsfeld and Benke to bring Hungary to their slightest edge (27-28) in the 15th minute. 

Luckily, by the end of the first half, Bilan picked up his pace again – and with the help of Domagoj Bošnjak – Croatia hit two three-pointers, giving Croatia a six-point advantage (44-38). 

In the third quarter, the Croatia defense was flawless. Hungary was unable to find an open shot in this period, and Croatia controlled the defensive rebounds.Thanks to the fourth three-pointer for Bošnjak and Hrvoje Perić’s baskets, Croatia secured a 12-point advantage in the last 10 minutes (62-50).

However, as seems to be the norm with the Croatia team during these qualifications, Hungary came too close for comfort twice in the last quarter – trailing by only 4 in the 34th minute (64-60) after Vojvoda’s three-pointer and again in the 38th minute thanks to the best Hungarian basketball player.

When Jakov Mustapić scored for 72-64 just 79 seconds before the end of the game, it seemed Croatia had secured the win, but how could we be so naive? Zoltan Perl brought Hungary to -3 (72-69) 19 seconds before the end. Domagoj Bošnjak missed both free throws with 16 seconds to go, but retrieved the ball and was fouled again. In his second attempt, he was calm and set the final score to 74-69 for Croatia. 

The best for Dražen Anzulović’s Croatia side was Miro Bilan with 22 points and 14 rebounds, Domagoj Bošnjak with 17 points with four three-pointers, and Martin Junaković who had six assists and six points. The Hungarian side was led by Zoltan Perl who scored 20 points and David Vojvoda who had 14 points.

Croatia is now equal with Hungary (4-5) and Poland (4-4) in the number of wins. Lithuania has the maximum of 8-0 and has secured placement in the World Cup, while Italy is not far behind (6-2).

On Sunday, December 2, Croatia will play in Vilnius, Lithuania, where they will be looking for a victory to return to third place in order to qualify for the World Cup next year. 

To read more about Croatia basketball, follow TCN’s dedicated page here


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