Croatia U20 Men’s Basketball Team Wins Historic Silver Medal at FIBA Euros!

Daniela Rogulj

This is the first silver medal for Croatia basketball in this age group. 

Croatia’s U20 basketball team has completed the European Championships in Germany with a silver medal! A marvelous array of young Croatian basketball players fought in the final against Israel, who defeated the young Croatian side 80:66 to deserve their first gold medal, reports on July 22, 2018. 

After the three defeats in the final (2017, 2004, 2000), Israel finally reached the gold, while Damir Rajković’s side was more than happy to secure their historic first silver medal for the U20 age group. The Croatian U20 team has so far entered the Euro semifinals three times (2000, 2010, 2014) and each time ended in fourth.

Additionally, few expected that such success would be achieved by the so-called ‘lost generation’, who had fallen into the B Division as a U18 team two years ago.

On the road to the finals, Damir Rajković led the team to overcome France (68-56), Ukraine (93-78) and Spain (85-70). In the round of 16, Croatia beat Great Britain (93-62), in the quarterfinals, they were better than Italy (79-68), and in the semifinals, they squeezed past the host, Germany (69-61).

Israel led 4-3 and did not let down their advantage until the end of the match. In the first quarter, they did not have more than a six-point advantage, but in the starting minutes of the second, they led by 11 points (29-18). In the last minute, Israel was up +14 (45-31), and at halftime, the score was 45-34. 

In the first half, Croatia hit only 20 percent of their three-pointers (3/15 points), achieved six rebounds less than Israel, and allowed nine steals. 

Croatia was better in the second half. With a series of 11-2, Croatia reached a difference of just two (45-47) – and then had three attacks to equalize or even lead. Unfortunately, instead of settling, Israeli hit a 7-0 series and led for 54-45. In the fourth quarter, Israel managed to increase the advantage and entered the last quarter with a 10-point advantage (60-50).

When Israel hit +16 (72-56) with five minutes to go, and then +19 (75-56), it was clear that Croatia had lost the fight for the gold. In the last quarter, Israel was up +21 (80-59) and finally ended the game 80-66. 

Yovel Zoosman and Gil Aharon Beni were the most successful players for Israel with 17 points, while Michael Mor Brisker scored 16 points. Mate Kalajžić was the best for Croatia with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Josip Barnjak scored 10 points, Toni Nakić hit nine, and Karlo Uljarević scored seven.

In the match for third, Germany beat France 80-71. Filip Stanić was the most effective for Germany with 22 points and seven rebounds. 

Croatia’s U20 team (1998 and 1999) is led by Rijeka coach Damir Rajković, the first strategist of the Croatian First League team Škrljevo.


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