Croatia and Montenegro met in the semifinal match of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Rotterdam on Saturday evening. A win was enough for Croatia to automatically secure a spot in Tokyo, as the top three national teams from the qualifiers advance to the Olympic Games. If Croatia lost, they would have to play (and win) the match for 3rd place.
Behind Croatia are six rounds made up of five victories and one defeat at the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Rotterdam thus far. Recall, Croatia won their first match against Romania at 16:6, defeated the Netherlands 25:8, topped France 10:13, lost to Russia 13:14, and beat Germany 22:8 in the final group stage match.
Croatia thus finished the group stage with eight points, four wins, and a defeat against Russia, which finished first with nine points.
In the quarterfinal match on Friday, Croatia was better than Georgia (15:6).
Montenegro v. Croatia
Montenegro opened the game with a goal for 1:0 with 7:07 to go in the first quarter. Maro Jokovic scored Croatia’s first goal for 1:1 a minute later.
Croatia led for the first time thanks to a goal by Vukicevic for 1:2 with 2:36 to go, though Montenegro retook the lead for 3:2 with just under a minute to go, which is how the first quarter ended.
Andro Buslje opened the second quarter with a rocket for 3:3. Vukicevic scored his second goal of the game for 4:4 with 4:15 to go in the second. Croatia retook the lead thanks to a penalty by Luka Bukic with just over 3 minutes to go (4:5). The second quarter ended at 5:5.
Fatovic and Bukic made it 7:7 in the third quarter and Buslje equalized for 8:8 with 1:43 to go – and scored again for the Croatia lead in the final seconds of the third quarter (8:9).
Bijac was brilliant in goal with two crucial saves to start the final quarter and keep Croatia head. Montenegro equalized at 9:9 with four minutes left in the match. Luka Bukic nailed the goal for 9:10 Croatia with 2:32 to go. Montenegro equalized for 10:10 with 24 seconds to go. The game went to penalties, in which Montenegro was better.
Greece and Russia will meet in the second semifinal on February 20 at 20:00.
The finalists of the qualifying tournament, as well as the national team that wins the match for third place on February 21, will qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are scheduled from July 24 to August 8, 2021.
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