It was an exciting match in which Croatia did not give up even when they were far behind. However, in the end, Croatia missed two seven-meter throws.
Numerous injuries in the Croatia national team significantly changed the starting lineup compared to the World Champs. Coach Nenad Šoštarić, therefore, started with Ivana Kapitanović in goal, Andrea Šimara and Ana Turk on the wings, Ana Debelić as the pivot, and Valentina Blažević, Dora Krsnik, and Dejana Milosavljević in the outside positions.
Unusual nervousness plagued both teams at the start. France missed four attacks (with two saves by Croatia’s goalkeeper), and Croatia three. The first goal was scored at the beginning of the fifth minute by Andrea Šimara. On the other hand, France reached their first goal in the sixth minute. After that, they scored two more and held their advantage. Croatia played great defense, especially Ana Debelić and Kristina Prkačin, who held the middle.
Olivier Krumbholz was not overly pleased with his team’s game and constantly rotated players for the ideal lineup to handle Croatia’s defense. However, Croatia struggled in the attack but did not give up. In the 20th minute, it was 7:7.
France then scored two goals in a row for 7:9 in the 23rd minute. After that, Croatia could equalize from two seven-meter throws but missed both. Just 90 seconds before halftime, France went up by three goals for the first time – 8:11. With another goal in the last seconds before halftime, the result was 8:12.
France opened the second half better. In five minutes, they scored three goals, and Croatia only one, making it +6 – 9:15. Croatia, however, showed character again. With three goals in a row in the 40th minute, they managed to halve the advantage of the Olympic winners and reach 13:16. Five minutes later, they were even closer, at minus two – 16:18.
At 17:19, Croatia had two attacks to equalize, but France instead scored for 17:20 with seven minutes to go.
Nevertheless, Croatia rose again. Josipa Mamić’s goal just 90 seconds before the end put Croatia behind by only one goal – 19:20. However, France quickly responded on the other side for the final 19:21.
Valentina Blažević scored four goals and Dejana Milosavljević three.
The return match will be played on Sunday at 17:30 in Toulouse.
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