It is the top match of the quarter-finals at France 2017. The 2003 World Champions Croatia face the 2005 and 2013 World Champions Spain for a spot in the semi-final and the ticket to Paris.
Both sides had some problems in their eighth-final matches, but now both hope to be at their best at Montpellier on January 24, 2017.
“We will have a 50/50 chance in this game,” said the Croatian coach Zeljko Babić, after his team had beaten Egypt in the eighth-finals 21-20. His counterpart, Jordi Ribera, had the same problems, as his Spaniards were close to elimination against Brazil (28-27), but now are, aside from France, the only group winner and the only team with the optimum of six wins in a quarter-final.
“The Croatian players know how to win crucial matches like this duel. They are strong in defense and in attack they count on their mastermind Domagoj Duvnjak,” Ribera said
On the Spanish side, all the players are fit, only left back Joan Canellas is facing some minor injury problems. The Croatian’s right back Luka Stepančić is in question after twisting his ankle against Egypt. “We have to wait to see if he can play,” Babić said.
Before their encounter in Montpellier, both sides agree that the defense is the key: “Spain has two accomplished goalkeepers and can build up a massive defensive wall. We have to find solutions and mainly must avoid ‘black holes’ in the attack like ones we had against Germany and Egypt,” said left Zlatko Horvat.
Spain has to be considered the favorite for the win. They are unbeaten so far, and their style of attack is very hard to stop, especially for the Croatian team. Croatia always find it hard to defend the pivotmen, and the Spaniard holding that position is probably the best in the World – Julen Aguinagalde.
Throw-off for the match is scheduled 20.45 CET, TCN will bring you the full match report after the game.