It was an old-school, sluggish game, where defences came out on top, but Slovenia got the best of Sweden, making the main round look more likely, after a 21:19 win against the co-hosts.
It was the second consecutive win for Swedish coach Ljubomir Vranjes as Slovenia’s coach, with the hosts now facing a must-win game against Poland to proceed to the next phase of the competition.
- Jure Dolenec was Slovenia’s best scorer, with six goals, but the Grundfos Player of the Match was centre back Dean Bombac
- Slovenia lead the group with four points after two wins, while Sweden and Switzerland are tied at two points
- Slovenia are not yet through to the main round, as they need a point in the last game
- Sweden must better Switzerland’s result in the last round: the Swiss team are playing against Slovenia, while the hosts face Poland
Sweden vs Slovenia 19:21 (9:10)
A loud roar could be heard inside the Scandinavium Arena when Ljubomir Vranjes’ name was announced. This time, not as a Swedish player or coach, but for the first time in an official match, as an opponent.
Vranjes was born and bred in Gothenburg and the adrenaline rush was clear to be seen on his face before the game, a crucial one for both sides.
Sure enough, it was not an easy one for Sweden. While starting with a 2:0 run, the Swedish side ran quickly into trouble.
Without a left-handed right back, as Albin Lagergren was missing from the squad, Sweden did not find the proper solutions to unlock the Slovenian defence, shooting only 45 per cent in the first half.
And who could have read the Swedish game plan better than Vranjes, himself plying his trade at IFK Kristianstad, the Swedish champions, at club level?
There was an eight-minute stint in which Sweden forgot how to score, only for EHF EURO 2018 MVP, playmaker Jim Gottfridsson, to come and save his team, scoring four of Sweden’s nine goals in the first half.
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 12, 2020
It could have been worse for the hosts, but Slovenia survived an injury scare to left back Jure Dolenec, the team’s top scorer in the first half, with four goals, to take a 10:9 lead at the break, after one of the lowest scoring halves in the EHF EURO history.
Not much improved in the Swedish attack in the second half, as turnovers and missed easy chances piled up.
But it was goalkeeper Mikael Appelgren who kept Sweden in the game, with seven saves in the second half, three of them in one-on-one situations.
Yet in a boiling, sold-out arena filled with raucous Swedish fans, Slovenia kept pushing. Vranjes underlined the importance of the attack before the game against Sweden, but it was a defensive masterpiece which helped Slovenia win, that saw the free-flowing Swedish attack limited to only 19 goals.
With the 21:19 win, Slovenia are not through, but are virtually assured a place in the main round, after two wins in the first two games.
Bombac said: “I told the guys before the game that this was our first final and we won it. In Sweden, against a very good team and in front of 12,000 fans. We need to build on this and take the best out of it.”
He added that Vranjes had given the Slovenians confidence, and that they were enjoying playing.
Appelgren was philosophical.
“We are experienced players and know that a loss is not the end. We will bounce back, this could be the start of something, even if it does not look so now. Two years ago, the road to the final was very difficult, but we got there and everything worked out fine," he pointed out.