Huge defensive game leads Hungary to shock Croatia

14 Aug. 2019

Huge defensive game leads Hungary to shock Croatia

The second 2019 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship eighth-final in Jane Sandanski Arena saw the first big upset of the knock-out round, as Croatia’s perfect record came to an end when they were defeated by Hungary. Hungary played an excellent match headlined by outstanding defence and great games from goalkeepers Kristof Gyori and Benedek Nagy. 

"For some people, they were the favourites to win this. But I think today it was all about the heart and the teamwork," said Nagy. "We didn’t have anything to lose, so we just came out and did what we needed to do."

Croatia vs Hungary 23:27 (12:13)

Croatia and Hungary entered the eighth-finals with very different records, as Croatia had taken only wins on the road to the knock-out round while Hungary placed fourth in their group. Croatia had marked themselves as a title contender with their performances in the preliminary round and were the firm favourites ahead of the eighth-final. 

However, Hungary completely shocked their opponents when the game began. Helped by a strong opening from goalkeeper Kristof Gyori, who saved the first two shots that came his way, Hungary created an early lead and with that, controlled the rest of the half. It took five minutes for Croatia to score their first goal, and the slow start cost them dearly. 

Croatia were left chasing not only on the score board but to find the same level as Hungary, who were at the top of their game from the outset, while Croatia were forced to below their best. With the support of Gyori, Hungary’s defence was outstanding. When he was replaced by Benedek Nagy in the second period, Nagy matched Gyori with two saves at 100% in his first minutes on court. 

Hungary’s lead grew as clear as four goals multiple times in the first half, the latest at 8:12 with five minutes remaining. With a strong finish to the period, Croatia reduced the deficit to just one goal in time for the break, then claimed the upper hand for a short time before Hungary retook their advantage. 

Croatia managed to stay closer however, and with one quarter of the match remaining, Hungary just had the edge, 19:20. An injury for key right wing Fran Mileta in the 34th minute was a blow for Croatia, while coach Sinisa Markota was forced to replace Fran Lucin early in the second period after he made one save off eight shots. 

Starting keeper Stipe Puric returned to the Croatian goal, but he was not at his best level either. Hungary were clearly winning the contest between the posts as Nagy saved at a huge 66% when coach Markota called a time-out in the 54th minute and his side behind by three goals, 21:24. 

Croatia were next on the board and still had a chance at 22:24 in the 55th minute, but the match was decided with three goals from Hungary in the last minutes – and the match winner scored by Huba Vajda. 

Player of the match: Benedek Nagy, Hungary