Hosts Croatia sail through to the semi-finals with big win against Norway
10 Aug. 2023
Croatia sailed through to the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship semi-finals, returning to their dominant selves after securing a critical win against Norway (33:25), in a match where the hosts dictated the tempo from start to finish.
Croatia will face reigning European champions Spain in their sixth semi-final at the IHF Men’s Youth World Championship, while in the other semi-final, also scheduled for Friday, Egypt take on Denmark.
- Croatia vs Norway 33:25 (14:9)
Only Denmark had previously sealed more semi-finals berth than Croatia at the IHF Men’s Youth World Championship, with the current hosts making it five times in eight appearances so far between the top four sides in the world handball flagship competition at this age category.
Now, Croatia had another chance for a place in the semi-finals and they were overwhelming favourites against Norway, despite their mishap against Hungary, where they scattered a big lead, only to salvage a draw in the dying seconds, yet with an unbeaten status, Croatia had to ride the wave and qualify.
But this is easier said than done and Norway did put up a serious challenge in the first 13 minutes of the game, with the two teams using their defences to stop any challenge, with Norway’s goalkeeper, Oscar Larsen Syvertsen, particularly in fine form, saving four shots for a 50% saving efficiency.
From that moment on, though, Croatia’s defence really took over and helped create a five-goal lead at the end of the first half, thanks to an excellent effort from goalkeeper Tin Herceg, but also with a strong collective display in attack.
It all started with a 5:1 run, which saw Norway score only a single goal for nine minutes and 38 seconds, frustrating the Scandinavian side, which constantly failed to get the right lane in attack or create the needed superiority to overcome Croatia’s defence.
By the final whistle of the first half, Croatia were up five goals (14:9), after one of their best, if not the best defensive performance so far at the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship, which left Norway thinking about what they can really change to finally beat that defence.
The answer was that Norway could simply do nothing to try and change the outcome of the came. While they did cut the gap to three goals early in the second half, Croatia were simply too good, firing from all cylinders in attack, matching Norway goal-for-goal and even more so.
Line player Martin Tomšić and Aleksandar Čaprić were unstoppable at times, combining for 14 goals, as Croatia enhanced the gap to nine goals with 14 minutes to go, 26:17, not even a team time-out being able to save something for Norway in this game.
With Croatia resting some of their players at the end of the game for Friday’s semi-final, the hosts eventually clinched a clear 33:25 win, after leading by as much as 11 goals, a clear win, after one of their best performances in the competition.
Extending their unbeaten streak to six games – five wins and one draw – in superb fashion, Croatia will now face the reigning European champions, Spain, for a place in the final in what projects to be an exciting match in the Varaždin Arena on Friday.
Norway will head to the Placement Matches 5-8, where they face Germany, another side that needs a morale boost after losing in the quarter-finals. Still, Norway, who have now lost two matches in a row, secured their best finish in the competition since 2015 after a good start.
hummel Player of the Match: Aleksandar Čaprić (Croatia)
Photo: Croatia 2023/Kolektiff images