Final result 33:22 in Copenhagen, after an electrifying performance from Croatia tonight.There is no point in guessing where Croatia will want to end up come the end of the European championship. The Thechequer-crested team of world-class players led by DomagojDuvnjak, who won his HSV side the Champions League trophy last season (subsequently honored the World’s Best Player accolade) will look to finish second to none after this convincing win against Belarus. It was Belarus team that opened the game well, but 6 goals from Pukhouski weren’t enough to fight-off strong Croatia, with Barcelona back-court player Siarhei Ruthenka sidelined for illness.
But it was not as rosy from the very beginning for the World Championship Bronze medalists. Somewhat underrated Belarus made a flying start to the game, leading 0-2 at the beginning of the match. It took seven minutes for DomagojDuvnjak to score the first goal for Croatia, after both teams had trouble finding the net. It was 2-2 in no time, with effort from Čupić. Croatia took step up their game to gain further lead, it was 4-2 approaching 10-minute mark. 6-3 for Croatia, 13 minutes in as goalkeeper MirkoAlilović pulls down the shutter. Belarus lost their hand in the game, as the difference rose to 5, 10-5 with 10 minutes to go in the 1st half. It was 15-10 as Croatia maintain their lead courtesy of Štrlek, Horvat and Duvnjak. 16-11 at half time, as Belarus look distraught, and Croatia show no signs of stopping.
Croatian team further diminished any chances of a comebackBelarus may have, two minutes into the 2nd half, with 18-12;extending their lead to 6 goals.
The first Double-digit lead came for Croatia in 40:32, provided by flawless Bićanić shooting 4/4.
Pukhouski with 6 and Babichev with 4 goals to their names failed to provide ressistance, as Croatia extended their lead to eleven goals in 48th minute. With 10 minutes left on the scoreboard it was goal for goal, as any effort from the brave Belarus side was matched by incisive Croatia. Maintaining the +11 lead what may prove a valuable goal-difference, later in the championship Croatia set the score at 33:22 with excellent performance from their wing players Horvat and Čupić with 6 goals, followed by Duvnjak and Bićanić with 4. Belarus hopes still stand upon the shoulders of SiarheiRutenka, who is bound to recover and rejoin his team for their next encounter against the Olympic silver-medalist Sweden two days from now, knowing they will have nothing to lose.
TEXT: NEMANJA SAVIC