It would be an outstanding performance of the current U21 team to follow in the steps of the 1998-born men’s age category, who achieved the best result in history at an IHF Men’s Junior World Championship by winning the silver medal in 2019.
The team of Andrija Nikolić ended up in 14th place at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2022, losing the shootout against this year’s preliminary round opponent Poland. Just like them, Croatia qualified for this year’s tournament at the European qualification tournament.
They faced Israel, Montenegro and host Italy and surprisingly dominated their group. At the European Championship, they tied against Italy and won by three goals against Montenegro. However, at the qualification tournament, they won all matches by double-digit figures and left no doubts that they will book one of the two tickets for the IHF Men’s Junior World Championship.
While left back Patrik Hršak stood out at the European Championship in Portugal last year, scoring 39 goals for his team, it was left wing Ivan Barbic who emerged as the best scorer with 19 goals at the qualification tournament.
Both players are part of Nikolić’s selection of 20 players who have been chosen to play in the World Championship. The performance during the qualification tournament could be a taste of what to expect in Magdeburg, Germany, when they face the reigning champions France in their opening match, followed by the matches against Poland and the USA in Group A.
Key players: Ivan Barbic (left wing), Patrik Hršak (left back)
Qualification for Germany/Greece 2023: European Qualification Tournament 2023 – 1st in Group A
History in tournament: 1997: 10th, 1999: 11th, 2001: 9th, 2003: 5th, 2007: 4th, 2013: 4th, 2017: 10th, 2019: 2nd
Group at Germany/Greece 2023: Group A (France, Poland, Croatia, USA)