Comeback kings Croatia fought back from six goals down to rescue a draw in a pulsating match between the top two teams heading for the Stockholm semi-finals.
Reigning champions Spain looked in command and on course for victory midway through the second half but Croatia, who trailed by five before beating Germany in their last match, stormed back with 10 goals from player of the match Igor Karacic.
- Spain finish top of group I on goal difference
- player of the match Igor Karacic top scores with 10 goals from 12 shots
- Karacic also registers fastest goal of the game at 131.8km/h
- Alex Dujshebaev top-scores for Spain with six goals, including five in the second half
Croatia vs Spain 22:22 (11:12)
With both teams already assured of a place in the semi-finals this match was all about who would top Group I and maintain their 100 per cent record in the competition.
It might have been a late afternoon throw off in Vienna but that did not seem to deter the thousands of Croatian fans who packed the arena in their thousands to wave their side off to Stockholm.
Those inside the arena were treated to a scrappy first half. It was a case of “you score, we score” for much of the opening 30 minutes; only once did either side lead by two goals as both defences dominated.
Spain had nine different goal-scorers to call on as they went in at half-time with a one-goal lead. Croatia, meanwhile, had the sharp shooting of Igor Karacic to thank, scoring with all six efforts on goal.
Spain, like so often at this championship, looked to have found an extra gear in the second half. It took Jordi Ribera’s side just five minutes to open up a six-goal lead courtesy of Alex Dujshebaev.
A 6:1 run, helped by a penalty save from goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas and another goal from Dujshebaev, increased that lead to 17:12 only eight minutes after the restart.
However, never rule out Croatia. Lino Cervar’s side had been behind in three of their previous EHF EURO 2020 matches and, having trailed by six goals, a 10-minute 5:1 run had the gap down to just two with Karacic leading the way in front of goal.
Igor Karacic scored 10 of @HRStwitt's ???????? 22 goals tonight - a magnificent performance which earned him the @grundfos player of the match award! ????#ehfeuro2020 #dreamwinremember pic.twitter.com/rJBpzMJyRd
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 22, 2020
Having looked down and out, all of a sudden the momentum was with Croatia and, unbelievably, they overturned a six-goal deficit to take one-goal lead in the space of 15 minutes.
Spain levelled things up in the final minute at 22:22 - their first goal for 12 minutes - and that was the way it stayed with Domagoj Duvnjak flashing a final shot wide as Croatia pushed for winner.
The draw means both sides remain undefeated, and the point ensures Spain finish on top of the group I on goal difference.
Ribera said his team played better in the second half than the first.
"The second half saw us look very strong and we were making use of plenty of opportunities with quick counter-attacks and steals. The final 15 minutes were in Croatia’s favour but in the end I am proud of my team," he concluded.