PREVIEW: By scoring seven goals in the final eight minutes of the game and conceding only one, Slovenia beat Croatia 31:30 to secure bronze at the World Championship 2017 on Saturday
Slovenia win World Championship bronze after incredible comeback
In geographical terms Slovenia and Croatia are neighbours, sharing several hundred kilometres of common border. In handball terms and feelings the two nations could not have been further apart from each other on Saturday night at the World Championship 2017 in France.
In the 52nd minute of the match for third place Croatia led 29:24 and very much looked like the eventual winnners of bronze at France 2017.
However, eight minutes later Slovenia had turned the match upside down, scoring seven goals while conceding only one to bag their first medal in World Championship history.
“I don’t know how we won this game, really. The Croatian team produced a good performance and played perfectly for around 58 minutes. Yesterday (on Friday when Croatia lost 28:25 after extra time to Norway) also I saw the Croatian team being very tired in the last ten minutes," said Slovenia coach Veselin Vujovic.
"In the last ten minutes we started to think that we had a chance to win this game. And eventually we won, I’m very satisfied, it was my dream."
Croatia's Manuel Strlek's feelings were the exact opposite: "These are the worst 24 hours of my life. We lost two games we shouldn’t have lost in less than 24 hours. I don’t know how to explain this. In the last ten minutes, they played very well, actually amazing and on our side it was like somebody turned off the lights."
Following their silver medal at the EHF EURO 2004 on home ground, the bronze from France 2017 marks the second medal Slovenia won at major international tournaments. At World Championship level their best result before had been a fourth place in 2013 in Spain.
For Croatia, who have won four bronze medals since January 2012 (EHF EURO 2012, Olympic Games 2012, World Championship 2013 and EHF EURO 2016), the fact they improved two places compared to the World Championship 2015 in Qatar where they finished sixth will be little consolation.
Janc starts the comeback
In the first half of Saturday's match, the game looked very much if it was going in Croatia's favour.
Goals were scored evenly on both ends of the court for 17 minutes when the score stood at 9:8 for Croatia, but then they took better control to enter the break with a 18:13 lead.
Ten minutes into the second half, Croatia even led 24:16 and there was very little indication that Slovenia would have the means to bounce back.
In the 52nd minute, Croatia still enjoyed a 29:24 advantage, but then a penalty converted by Slovenia's Blaz Janc marked the start for his team's comeback that saw them scoring seven of the final eight goals of the match to beat Croatia 31:30.
TEXT: EHF / ts
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