Denmark held as Croatia within a whisker

19 Jan. 2023

Denmark held as Croatia within a whisker

Croatia narrowly missed the chance to hand Denmark a rare IHF Men's World Championship defeat as a last-second Luka Cindrić full-court shot just went over Niklas Landin's bar to ensure their opening main round encounter ended with 64 goals shared – 32:32.

By avoiding defeat this evening, Denmark extend their World Championship unbeaten run to 23 matches – their last defeat coming at the 2017 IHF Men's World Championship in their last 16 match against Hungary.

Main Round Group IV

Denmark vs Croatia 32:32 (15:16)

The last time Denmark recorded a draw at an IHF Men's World Championship was at Qatar 2015 in the preliminary round against Germany (30:30). 

A quarter-final shoot-out victory at Egypt 2021 had come after a draw in additional time, but the magnitude of this result and performance by Croatia should not be underestimated.

After the Balkan side had opened their 2023 IHF Men's World Championship campaign with a heavy defeat (22:31) against Egypt, they eased to expected wins against the USA and Morocco.

Hrvoje Horvat's side had not impressed and the jury was out against a side that are continuing to break all sorts of records – not least their aim to make it a third World Championship gold in a row.

But after their performance this evening, Croatia fans can now breathe a sigh of relief at what they witnessed.

"We were in a very tough situation after the opening match," said Horvat after the match. "Tonight we showed that we are alive, back in the competition and have to concentrate now for the next two matches."

Up until the 15th minute, the teams kept in touch, with Croatia taking a two-goal lead at times, but the Danes clawing their way back.

At 8:8, the Croatians capitalised on some rare technical errors and turnovers from the Danes to go two up (10:8) and then four goals clear (12:8), thanks to a penalty from Filip Glavaš (19th minute).

Luka Cindrić then missed a chance to put his side five ahead, but at this point Denmark coach Nikolaj Jacobsen had seen enough and called a time-out.

However, the Danes, led by Mikkel Hansen, got the 10,420 fans in the Malmö Arena – 99% of whom were Danish, such is the short hop to Denmark from the Swedish venue – singing again as his half-time penalty ensured a single-goal half-time deficit (15:16).

The Croatian defence had dictated most of the match up to this point, as the Danes tried everything against their 5-1 defence, including their 7 v 6 attack.

Everyone needed a half-time break after an exhilarating first period, but the second, while exciting, was much closer – after Denmark had pulled back to 17:18 (34th minute), no team went ahead by more than one again as the lead changed hands several times.

Eventually, it went down to the last seconds.

The Danes had one last attack following Igor Karačić's late equaliser (32:32) with 36 seconds on the clock. Jacobsen called a Danish time-out with 12 seconds remaining, and with Hansen on the ball and Croatia man-marking all the players, he passed the ball out to Emil Jakobsen for the winner, but the winger mishandled and that appeared to be the end.

But it was not. The ball eventually fell to Cindrić halfway inside his own half, but his long-ranger sailed just over and the points were shared.

Jacobsen will be the happier of the two coaches, his side sitting on five points in the group, while Croatia, on three points, know that their destiny is not in their own hands to make it through to the last eight.

"It was a very intense match," said the Danish coach. "We started okay, but then we made too many mistakes against the 5-1 defence. We played very well, a disciplined 7 v 6 and didn't make any mistakes, but our defence today was in trouble. 

"In the end, a draw is a fair result. We can live with a draw; it's still in our own hands to get first place in the group."

"It was a good match for spectators, as always when Croatia play against Denmark," added Horvat.

"Our goal was to play 5-1 defence as we know that Denmark don't like it. But we also know that they will bring the extra player in the attack when it doesn't work.

"They have a very high quality of the back players and they managed to solve this problem with 7 v 6 very well, almost without mistakes. We didn't find the solution for this."

hummel Player of the Match: Simon Pytlick (Denmark)