Historic 29:29 tie for Japan against group favourites Croatia

15 Jan. 2021

Historic 29:29 tie for Japan against group favourites Croatia

The second match of the day in Alexandria was thrilling from start to finish as group favourites Croatia luckily escaped with a 29:29 draw against Japan thanks to a last-minute equaliser from Ivan Cupic. 

Croatia vs Japan 29:29 (14:17) 

Underdogs Japan got off to a fantastic start leading 6:2 after 11 minutes of play thanks to goalkeeper Yuta Iwashita saving four attempts. Croatia Coach Lino Cevar, unsatisfied with his team’s performance, took the first timeout. 

However, the 2020 AHF Men’s Asian Championship bronze medallists weren’t done yet and remained the stronger and faster team in the first half, led by Yuto Agarie, who scored his five goals in the first 30 minutes and was also voted Player of the Match.

For Croatia, it was too many mistakes. From missing the goal, to hitting the post or turning the ball over, it made it impossible for the favourites to come back from the deficit, although they were able to manage to reduce the gap slightly to 14:17 before the break. 

“Japan played very well, we were not able to play our defence as ususal and we had a lot of problems with their attack, although we got a bit better in the second half,” said Croatia captain Domagoj Duvnjak.

The European Championship runners-up continued to have trouble against a gritty Japan team. A rocket goal from Duvnjak, followed by another, reduced the gap to one goal at 21:22 with 15 minutes left. 

This last quarter was a real thriller as neither Croatia nor Japan could make a decisive move. Two minutes before the end, Cupic had the chance to get Croatia’s first lead since leading 1:0 but was stopped by a superb save from Iwashita. The two faced off again only seconds before the final whistle, this time in favour for Cupic, who scored the penalty and secured a 32:32 draw. 

“I’m really happy and satisfied. That was historical for us and I’m just incredible happy and hope that we can continue like this. It was extremely important for the team and I’m very proud of all of them,” said Japan Coach Dagur Sigurdsson.

“Of course I would have liked to see my team win this game but you can’t forget who we have faced. They are a really strong team and that’s why it really feels like a victory for us.”

“We received a blow today, but this is handball. At the end, we are lucky to win a point and the tournament will continue,” concluded Duvnjak. 

hummel Player of the Match: Yuto Agarie, Japan