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Foto: Uroš Hočevar

Iceland into the Final with the win over Croatia

Croats powerless in front of Thrastarson who scored 10 goals.

It wasn’t the best opening for the host team. They gained the lead in the third minute of the match (1:2) but strong Iceland’s defence, fast wing players, and hollow Croatian’s defence and inefficient attack resulted in Iceland’s one-point lead five minutes into the first halftime. Iceland’s player Stiven Tobar Velencia got a 2-minute suspension so Croatia had an opportunity for a comeback. Although Mateo Maraš scored for Croatia one-point lead in minute 14, Iceland were fast in overturns, Thrastarson, Steinn Runarsson, Tobar Velencia and Gautason maid 4-0 series and gained their first two-point lead. Strong Island’s defence forced Croats to make mistakes, lots of them. Croats didn’t have the solution for wing player Dagur Gautason who scored with ease, and Haukur Thrastarson who scored from distance. Both of them scored five goals in the first halftime. A two-meter high goalkeeper Viktor Gisli Hallgrimsson was supporting them with six saves from which two were penalty saves.

Goalkeeper Stipe Purić kept hosts in the game with his seven saves in the first halftime. After first team time-out, Croats made 4-0 series and Mileta scored for a tie. The first halftime ended with the result 14:13 for Iceland.

At the beginning of the second halftime, Croatian player Gianfranco Pribetić got 2-minutes suspension so Iceland sized the opportunity and maid first three-goal lead. Thanks to two in a row saves by Croatian goalkeeper Purić, Croatia managed to keep up with Iceland. But they were keeping them at the safe two-point distance. Croatian team lacked on imagination when it came to strong Iceland’s zone defence. Because of suspensions fifteen minutes before the end of the game, Croatia played without two players so Iceland gained a three-goal advantage (18:15). There was absolutely no solution for Haukur Thrastarson and he managed to score ten goals during 60 minutes of the game. Five minutes before the end Einar Orn Sindrason scored penalty shot that was followed by Tobar Velencia who scored for a five-point lead (27:22). The final result was 30:26 for Iceland who qualified for the Final.

The best player for the national team of Iceland was Haukur Thrastarson, and best player for the national team of Croatia was Ante Ivanković. Both of them were best scorers: Thrastarson scored ten goals for Iceland and Ivanković five for Croatia.

Croatia’s coach, Boris Lisica: ‘We had problems with their 6-0 defence. Iceland played a slow pace game, a terrific back shooter who kept scoring with a passive attack made the difference, because we didn’t have a player who was able to do that. We were down, lost our heads and tried to come back quickly which resulted in an even bigger margin. It will be an honour to play for the third place. We will try to be better against Denmark and get a revenge for a loss earlier in the tournament.’

Croatia’s player, Ante Ivanković: It was a very hard match, we are a bit sad and disappointed. We fought well, but it was not enough against a terrific team like Iceland. Our defence wasn’t good enough on places where it needed to be. I think we were too focused on playing the final, and it resulted in a loss. We need to keep our heads up, give our best and reset to try and get revenge against Denmark. I hope we learned something from our previous encounter.’

Iceland’s coach, Heimir Rikardsson: We are happy with this game. We are in the finals exactly 15 years ago since we won the European Championship in 2003, so we are very happy. Today it was the defence that was very good. In attack, we were clever and patient to find the right solution and gave us the victory today. Sweden are a very good team, we played a tough game against them a few days ago. However, that match doesn’t count on Sunday. It will be a good game, two very good teams. We will have to be even better than we were today to beat them.’

Iceland’s player, Haukur Thrastarson: Croatia were probably the toughest opponent we faced so far. The team played very well offensively, we had a good start. Croatia was a very tough team, today. I’m just really happy with the win. Sweden are really good, we already beat them here, but it’s going to be a whole new match on Sunday. We have to play even better. Our defence, goalkeepers and fast breaks will probably be the key to the victory. Swedish goalkeeper is very good. We’ll simply have to play a really good game to beat them on Sunday.’

Semifinal 2

Iceland – Croatia 30:26 (14:13)

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