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Photo: Uroš Hočevar

Croatia beat France for a place in the semis

The last match of the day saw a handball classic between France and Croatia.

Croatia’s furious start brought them a four-goal lead after Fran Mileta’s shot from the seven-meter line and three fast reactions and precise shots which forced Eric Quintin to call a time out. Despite France’s Charles Bolzinger saves, France’s Croatia managed to put the ball in his net. France’s first scorer was Yohan Bourgeuil in the 10th minute (1:4). Although the first 20 minutes were packed with action on both sides, France took time to score two new goals in two fast actions (4:9). The hosts of the M18 EHF EURO 2018, Croatia, entered the last five minutes with a five-goal lead and a player more as France got a suspension. Croatia’s goalkeeper Stipe Purić helped his team to lead by five (7:12) at the half-time.

Croatia’s Patrik Martinović opened the second half with a goal for his teams’ six-goal lead (7:13). While Croatia tried to build an action with a player less, France’s Drevy Paschal was precise from the seven-meter line. The French defence caused Croatia problems but Fran Mileta and Patrik Martinović lead hosts’ attack while on the other side of the court Mathieu Salou’s three-goal series was unstoppable. In the last five minutes, Croatia entered leading by nine (16:25) and with the final whistle taking a win (20:25).

France’s best player was Loick Spady and Croatia’s was Zvonimir Rudolf Šafranko.

Top scorer for Croatia was Fran Mileta scoring six and France’s were Sadou Ntanzi and Yohan Bourgeuil, each scoring four.

France coach Eric Quentin: These sort of matches happen to the best of teams, so it’s not a surprise it happened to us, because we are a very young, newly-assembled team. There were maybe under pressure, today our play just wasn’t enough. Croatia were really stronger than us, we did our best, but it was clear that it wasn’t enough. Now we rest and rebuild for what’s next.

France player Loick Spady: My team played a good match. In the beginning we felt some pressure, and it was enough for us not to deliver our best performance. We managed to get a few goals back, and we tried to come back in the end. Considering our age and everything we can somewhat be happy with the competition overall, my teammates did their best.

Croatia player Zvonimir Rudolf Safranko: We started the match very well. Our great start simply gave us a big lead and they couldn’t get back into the match. Defense was the key, like it is in every match, because when the defense is played well, the offense follows. Croatia will definitely be ready for Iceland in the semi-finals and I think we’ll beat them.

Croatia coach, Boris Lisica: In the most important match, we had our best start to the match. It was phenomenal in defense, and our attack was calm with a lot of flow. We were in the lead, controlled the match well and haven’t stopped until the very last second. Congratulations to the boys on this performance. Another Scandinavian team awaits in the semi-finals, but we will go into deeper analysis later. I think we had lots of rotation so far, and we definitely have many aces in our sleeve. Now we’re going until the end, we can cope with everyone and go all the way.

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