Slovenia came back from eight goals down to win 31-30 and took the bronze medal, their first ever in a World Championships
“These are the worst 24 hours of my life. We lost two games we shouldn’t have lost in less than 24 hours. I don’t know how to explain this. In the last ten minutes, they play very well, actually amazing and on our side, it was like somebody turned off the lights”, said Manuel Štrlek after yet another impossible defeat for Croatia. On January 28. 2017, the Slovenian team got back from eight goals down to take the bronze medal.
The words of Croatian left winger summed it all up. Croatia once again had it all in their hands, eight goals ahead, fluent play, tight defense, goalkeeper saving shots, and it all went bad from there.
It was most probably the problem with the stamina of the players, as they obviously slowed down after getting to what seemed the uncatchable lead. But the Slovenians refused to slow down, and as they saw a glint of a chance, they were all over the Croatian players.
In the last fifteen minutes of play, the northern Croatian neighbors were on the top of their game, and Croatia lost confidence. Croatian coach tried to stop the Slovenian flow with a time-out, but the players seemed off the rhythm completely.
This is probably the first match in this tournament that coach Babić made a tactical mistake, as he should surely use the backup players more tonight. One can rightfully complain about the injustice made to Croatian team which had no time for rest at all, but it was a fact known previously, and it should have been dealt with more carefully.
That being said, your reporter from Paris reminds that the plan for the tournament was quarter-final qualification, and getting experience for the young team which should peak in a year time, when Croatia will be hosting the European Championship, the sole competition which Croatia never won.
If one looks from that angle, it seems that the plan is fully implemented, but it is hard to be objective after this two losses, as Manuel Štrlek pointed out.
One more point to be made, the fans of the both teams are to be commended for their behavior tonight. It was really nice to see them chanting and singing together throughout the evening.
This is the first World medal for Slovenia. France will play Norway in tomorrow’s final match.