Late drama deny Croatia's quarter-finals hopes, as Montenegro progress

11 Dec. 2023

Late drama deny Croatia's quarter-finals hopes, as Montenegro progress

Croatia, which needed at least a draw to stay in fight for a quarter-finals spot, led for much of the game, but Hungary managed to dramatically turn things around in the last 15 minutes, eventually sealing a 23:22 win, which means that Montenegro will go through from Group I alongside Sweden. 

Main round
Group I
Hungary vs Croatia 23:22 (8:11)

Thanks to this unbelievable win, Hungary finished third in the group with six points and 10th at the entire tournament, while the heartbroken Croatians, which seemed to have a good chance of progressing, dropped to the fourth position in the group and just 14th overall.
Croatia opened up a 4:2 lead four minutes into the match, but then both sides were unable to find the net during almost eight minutes, as their defence worked well, and goalkeepers Blanka Böde-Bíró and Tea Pijevic made some superb saves.

And when the attacks started providing, it was Croatia who looked very motivated and maintained their advantage. Vladimir Golovin’s team time-out did not help a lot, and while Viktória Győri-Lukács scored four goals from as many attempts in the first half, she did not have enough support from her teammates in attack.

Besides, Pijevic continued to stand as a wall, recording 10 saves for a 59% save efficiency before half-time and lifting Croatia to an 11:6 lead. But goals from Győri-Lukács and right back Klujber as well as Böde-Bíró’s heroics - the Hungarian goalkeeper boasted a 42% save rate in the first half - slashed the gap to three goals at the break. 

However, it did not take long for the Balkan team to restore a five-goal gap after the restart, as Obrvan’s team continued to push forward and had the upper hand. Their defence was solid, while Dejana Milosavljevic and Camila Micijevic combined well in attack, extending their team’s advantage to six goals, 19:13, midway through the second half, when it seemed that Hungary hardly had a chance for a comeback. 

Yet following another time-out taken by Golovin, Hungary’s changed their back court players and had a 4:0 run, reviving their hopes for a comeback, forcing Obrvan to take his team time-out. Three penalty shots, converted by Milosavljevic in quick succession, seemed to put Croatia back on track, 22:18.

But Hungary continued to fight and responded with a few goals by Klujber, both from the 7m line and an open play, to draw level at 22:22 with just two minutes to go. And then Kinga Debreczeni-Klivinyi scored the goal which proved to be a winner before Milosavljevic missed a penalty shot in a key moment, 47 seconds from full-time, as her shot was saved by Böde-Bíró. 

Croatia were left heartbroken, failing to make the quarter-finals, but this result also brought joy and happiness to Montenegro, which qualified, as they are tied with Hungary, but have won against their European counterparts, owning the tiebreaker.

hummel Player of the Match: Petra Vamos (Hungary)