Croatia staged an epic fight-back in an EHF EURO classic to beat Germany by one goal and book their place in next weekend’s semi-finals.
Lino Cervar’s side trailed by five goals early in the second half, but inspired by a player of the match performance from Igor Karacic – who top scored with seven goals – Croatia stormed back to record their fifth successive win of the tournament and seal their spot in the last four.
- victory for Croatia confirms their place in the semi-finals
- Germany led by five goals early in the second half
- seven goals from Croatia’s Igor Karacic win him the player of the match award
- there were 12 suspensions during the game, nine in the first half
- German wingers Uwe Geinsheimer and Timo Kastening completed the game with 100 per cent efficiency
Croatia vs Germany 25:24 (11:14)
It might have only been both teams’ second match of the main round but the importance of winning this game was evident from the start inside a deafening, sell-out Wiener Stadthalle arena.
The first half was an intense, physical battle which at one point threatened to boil over. There were nine two-minute suspensions in a blood-and-thunder opening 30 minutes that saw Germany lead by five goals at one point.
German goalkeeper Andreas Wolff saved two seven-metre penalties, and those stops enabled his side to score four in a row. Among the goals were wingers Uwe Gensheimer and Timo Kastening, who scored with all five of their combined shots.
But as the teams traded two-minute suspensions – which included a spell of five in three minutes – Croatia responded with a three-goal burst of their own to reduce the deficit to three.
Wolff continued to frustrate Croatia with a string of fine saves and that enabled Gensheimer and Kastening to find the target again and lift the Germans’ lead to five once more.
But the Croatians, sensing the game was getting out of reach, turned on the style and their fight-back began with a 6-2 run as they closed the gap that raised the decibel inside the arena level even louder.
It was all square at 22:22 with 12 minutes left and, as the game swung brilliantly and beautifully from one end to another, suddenly the momentum was with Croatia.
Wolff tried his best to repel the Croatian attack but, after Matej Asanin stopped Julius Kuhn’s effort, player of the match Karacic ran through to slam Croatia ahead for the first time since the fourth minute with just 88 seconds left on the clock.
There was one, final, incredible chance for Germany to rescue a draw in the dying moments only for Marin Sego to deny Jannik Kohlbacher with 15 seconds remaining – and that was that. A stunning match that will go down in EHF EURO folklore.
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 18, 2020
Croatia head coach Lino Cervar said it was belief had won the match for Croatia.
"In the first half, Germany were better than us. We had no good solutions in attack. In the second half, we showed character and patience. In the last 10 minutes, our defence was brilliant. And we had the intensity you need in attack," he said, summing up.