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Date: 8/20/2017

Denmark won their first ever bronze medal at the IHF Men’s Youth (U19) World Championship after a close match against Croatia decided in the final seconds. Croatia trailed for most of the match but in the last 10 minutes the match was level. In the final 30 seconds, the European championship runners-up had the chance to take the lead but lost the ball for Denmark to run a fast break that won the match. 

“It feels amazing,” said Denmark’s Mathias Gidsel, who scored the game-winning goal. “I thought we were going to lose when Croatia got the ball in the last attack, but then we got this counter attack and I don’t know – I just closed my eyes and shot the ball into the net!”

Bronze-medal match: Croatia vs Denmark 29:30 (16:17)

The match began slowly for Croatia, while Denmark streaked ahead to a 6:2 advantage that caused Croatia coach Luka Panza to call his first time-out in the fifth minute. His team continued to have problems finding ways to beat Denmark’s 6-0 defence, playing long attacks as they hunted for opportunities. When those chances came they were often thwarted by Denmark goalkeeper Victor Bang or flew wide of the goal, resulting in the score of 8:5 for the Scandinavian team after 10 minutes. 

However, Croatia settled into the game and, while there were still errors in attack that Denmark did not make at the other end of the court, the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists looked increasingly threatening. Their defence in particular improved as Tomslav Spruk moved to the front of their 5-1 formation, and keeper Ivan Panjan saved a difficult shot in the 14th minute that kept the distance at four (5:9).

Panza rotated his line-up more extensively than Denmark coach Claus Hansen, and as the clock passed 20 minutes Croatia were within two goals at 10:12. Following a time-out from Hansen, Croatia’s defence seemed to step up yet more as they forced a passive play call against Denmark that enabled Spruk to close the gap to one on a fast break at 12:13 – but the comeback was temporary and Denmark soon reclaimed a three-goal lead that stood as the last five minutes of the half began. 

With two consecutive goals Croatia reduced the deficit to one just as the final 60 seconds of the first period began, after which Emil Laerke received a two-minute suspension. There was not enough time for Croatia to capitalise before the break and Denmark took the narrow edge to the break. 

Denmark were stronger to start the second half, quickly reclaiming a steady three-goal advantage that stood through the first quarter of the period. Frederik Hummelmose started the second half in goal for Denmark, while Croatia replaced Panjan with Mateo Radocaj. After the 45-minute mark Croatia closed the gap to two, and a neat cross from right back Ivan Martinovic to left back Halil Jaganjac took the European runners-up within on at 25:26 as the clock ticked into the last 10 minutes. 

Jaganjac struck again in the next attack, equalising the game – and it stayed that way right through to the last 60 seconds when the Scandinavian team were in possession. Radocaj continued with his exceptional performance (40% overall) as he stopped Denmark’s shot on goal, and Croatia had the chance to win the match but lost the ball with just over five seconds on the clock. Multiple players scrambled for the ball, but it was Gidsel who emerged from the fray, running a fast break that won the match for Denmark right on the buzzer. 

Players of the Match: Nikolai VINTHER (DEN), Halil JAGANJAC (CRO)