Spain faces Sweden in the final after extra-time thriller

26 Jul. 2013

Spain faces Sweden in the final after extra-time thriller

Spain vs. Sweden is the final of the Men’s Junior World Championship in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday (28 July). Like in the 2012 final of the U20 European championship (34:21) the Spaniards defeated Croatia by 36:35 (30:30, 17:12)- but this time after extra-time in a highly thrilling match on highest level, 70 brilliant minutes more like men’s handball than like junior handball.

The Iberian team will play their fourth final in this composition in four years after the European U18 championship final 2010 (26:27 against Croatia), the 2011 Youth World Championship final (22:24 against Denmark) and the victorious European final against Croatia in 2012. In total Spain will play their fifth final of a Men’s Junior World Championship after 1987, 1989, 1995 and 2001, when they each took the silver medal. Croatia will face France in the bronze final on Sunday 28 July.

The defeat was especially a bitter moment for Slavko Goluza, who coaches the Croatian men and junior national team. Like in the last three men’s competitions (European and World championships, Olympic Games) his team was beaten in a semi-final.

Sweden and Spain already competed in the preliminary round, when the Scandinavians took a clear 37:27 victory.

Spain – Croatia 36:35 (30:30, 17:12)

Croatia was far below par in attack in the first half, causing hectic and nervousness and missing too many clear chances including three penalty shots. Therefore already the early Spanish 4:0 and 7:4 leads were well-deserved. The European champion showed a highly structured attack play and had built-up a defence wall, too. Led by their back court shooters, the Spaniards easily forged ahead to 11:5 already in minute 18 and intermediately even increased the margin to seven goals at 14:7. Croatia was shocked and could not turn the tide, as Spain played with a very high precision in their attacks and always included their strong line player Gonzalo Porras, who could not be stopped by the Croats, who before this match had the best defence of all teams and were down by 12:17 at the break.

But everything changed immediately. Croatia showed passion, put their hectic aside and started their catch-up chase, boosted by the saves of goalkeeper Filip Ivic. In only four minutes the margin was only two goals at 18:16 – and Spain needed to take an early time-out. But the confusion and the downswing both in defence and attack did not stop, in contrast: At 19:20 the distance had melted to one goal.

But Spain could turn the corner: At 24:21 the gallows seemed to be cheated, as then the defence had found their usual stability again. Croatian coach Slavko Goluza took his time-out when his team was down by four goals (22:26) nine minutes before the end. And his players understood what he said. Four minutes later the match was close to turn at 25:26. But again Spain had the right answers and took the profit of some missed Croatian chances in the thrilling endgame. When Pablo Cacheda netted in for 30:27 the deal seemed to be sealed. But the Croats scored twice in the final minute – and Spain missed their last shot. Six seconds before the end Goluza took the green card again. And with the final whistle Sime Ivic scored for the 30:30, the first ever equal result in the match – the extra-time needed to decide the second finalist.

And in those ten minutes the lead changed constantly, no team could forge ahead. So the match was decided with the final whistle: After Cacheda had scored the 36:35, the last Croatian shot hit the cross bar.

Before the match a minute of silence was held for the victims of the fatal train accident in Spain, for that reason the Spanish team was playing with black armbands, too.