In the HEP Croatia Cup held in Poreč, which is also being played as the final stage of preparations for the World Cup, the Croatia handball team crushed Montenegro in their tournament-opening 34:22, reports Index.hr on January 4, 2019.
Though Croatia struggled in the first half, at the beginning of the second, the hosts created a massive advantage and broke Montenegro to the point of no return. Particularly brilliant were the players who came off the bench – goalkeeper Stevanović and the young wingers Halil Jaganjac and David Mandić, who shined for Croatia.
Croatia’s better showing in the second half featured a +10 advantage (20:10), though the team secured a +12 point advantage for the final score of 32:22. Croatia coach Lino Červar gave the opportunity to almost all 19 players in the lineup, apart from goalkeeper Filip Ivić.
Manuel Štrlek was the most efficient for Croatia with six goals, and David Mandić followed with five, while Zlatko Horvat, Halil Jaganjac and Luka Cindrić each added three goals. Ivan Stevanović collected six saves in goal, and Marin Šego achieved five.
Montenegro’s Miloš Vujović gave Croatia the most problems, as he led the visitors with seven goals, while Stefan Čavor and Nemanja Grbović scored four goals each.
“Our legs were a bit heavy. We made some mistakes that we need to correct, especially in the first half. For the rest of the game, we played more solid in the defense and were far more mobile. Against Iceland we have to play much better,” said Červar after the game.
In the first match of this tournament, Montenegro played Italy on Thursday and won 32:24. The last duel of the Cup is scheduled for Saturday when Croatia and Italy will meet in Žatika hall.
Croatia’s first game at the World Cup is scheduled for Friday, January 11 in Munich against Iceland. The following day the team will rest, and then face Japan (January 13), Macedonia (January 14) and Bahrain (January 16). Croatia’s last match in Group B will be against Spain on January 17.
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