Croatia looking towards Paris 2024 as Germany falter in Hanover

16 Mar. 2024

Croatia looking towards Paris 2024 as Germany falter in Hanover

The ZAG Arena in Hanover was sold out again for the second day of Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament 2 action with the afternoon throw-off of Germany taking on Croatia the hottest ticket in town.

But the majority of the 10,099 fans in Lower Saxony saw an impressive defensive performance from the visitors in the opening half, led by goalkeeper Dominik Kuzmanovic who helped his Croatia side take a six-goal lead into the half-time break.

It was a lead which Germany could never claw back despite their best efforts.

Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament 2 – Hanover (Germany)
Germany vs Croatia 30:33 (10:16)

In this clash between two Icelandic coaches it was Dagur Sigurdsson – who oversaw Germany’s last international gold at the 2016 European Championships – who prevailed, his new Croatia side seeing off Alfred Gislason’s Germany.

A six-goal lead was built by the Croatians thanks to their 5-1 defence and a sterling effort between the posts from HC Nexe’s 21-year-old shot-stopper Kuzmanovic.

Sigurdsson welcomed back THW Kiel’s Domagoj Duvnjak after the Croatian captain was rested for their opening win against Austria and with him on the court there was little to pick at in a dominant first half performance from his side, and ultimately across the whole 60 minutes.

In truth, it was arguably the first six minutes which cost the home side, not scoring until they were 4:0 behind. And giving a team such as Croatia such a hand early on would prove to be impossible to recover from.

By the time Duvnjak made his bow in the ninth minute, his side were 5:1 ahead with Gislason taking a time out just 50 seconds later, inside the first 10 minutes, and pouring fuel on the fire which had erupted from the Croatian fans who, maybe, could not quite believe what they were witnessing.

Not that the Croatian support all around the arena needed any encouragement, although they were drowned out by the noise of the home fans, who had responded to Gislason’s request for them to be louder.

Gislason’s frustrations were evident with his grilling of Juri Knorr after the Rhein Neckar Lowen player had turned over the ball when trying to make something happen for the faltering German attack. Knorr was taken off shortly after and it appeared that Gislason may have considered his second time out at this point.

Germany were converting less than half of their chances (47%), while Croatia were in the 70s as they managed to get past Andreas Wolff, despite the best, impressive efforts of the influential Germany goalkeeper.

Try as they might going into the second period, the home side could not reduce the deficit to a significant amount, getting as close as two numerous times.

The arena entertainment had started playing the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme tune when top-scorer in the match Ivan Martinovic faced Wolff for a seven metre just before the 50-minute mark, but even though Wolff saved it, his side could not get back and were dealt a further blow late on when Sebastian Heymann was shown a red card after video replay for a foul on Duvnjak.

After the final buzzer, Croatia celebrated wildly, with Duvnjak and Wolff discussing the game on court, while Gislason was deep in reflection on his chair on the bench no doubt thinking what needs to be fixed for their crucial final clash against Austria on Sunday.

hummel Player of the Match: Renars Uscins (Germany)