November 8, 2020 – In its first appearance in the EHF Cup in Osijek, the Croatia men’s handball team defeated Hungary 31-27 (17-13).
Since the World Handball Championship will be held in Egypt from January 13 to 31, 2021, these matches serve as good preparation for the big competition ahead.
It was the first game for the Croatian ‘Cowboys’ in nine months when they won silver at the European Championships in Sweden. Coach Lino Cervar could not count on about 10 standard national team members due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite that, Croatia led throughout the match, and with a 5-1 series at the end of the first half, they turned an 8-9 deficit into a 13-10 advantage and went into halftime with 17-13. Still, Hungary opened the second half better and leveled the score at 18-18, but did not take the lead. In the last 10 minutes, Croatia led 25-24, and goalkeeper Sego stood out with three stellar saves, one of which was off a seven-meter shot. Croatia then managed to lead 28-25.
Manuel Strlek and Ivan Martinovic scored six goals each for Croatia, Domagoj Duvnjak added five goals, while the most efficient for Hungary was Richard Bodo with six goals.
After the great victory against Hungary, coach Lino Cervar commented on the match.
“After 10 months, the players showed a connection to the national team jersey. They came from all over Europe to play, risking getting sick, so hats off to our national team, the players who came here. I am also satisfied with the victory; of course, it is a victorious path that we continue from Stockholm. The players prepared differently since there were breaks. Therefore, such a situation was more for us to endure in such difficult conditions and without spectators, which I am upset about. What should be pointed out today is that they showed a desire to win.”
With this victory, Croatia took the lead in the EHF Cup with two points from one match. Hungary, which played two matches, has the same number of points, while Slovakia, who did not play a single match, and Spain, who played one, have no points.
Croatia should play the next game in the EHF Cup on January 6 against Spain away, and only three days later, they should host the same opponent at home.
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