Not many would bet against Denmark reaching the final of the European Championship on their home soil, but the defending champions have done it after a classic match against the unlucky Croatia, who again failed to secure the much sough after European champion’s title, after their seventh semi-final appearance in the competition. Meeting of the two history-rich teams like these, would only mean one thing; we are going to have a game in our hands; so we did, and what a game with 29:27 (13:15) the final score
Croatia was leading with 3:5 after ten minutes into the game, but Hansen and his teammates gave them no time rest as they caught up on the lead. Bičanić and Ćupić responded well to the challenge and set up Croatia with a narrow 7:8 lead mid-way through the half. The score was nowhere near comfortable, for Croatia, but the Danes had al kinds of trouble turning it to their favor. Twentieth minute saw Yet another tie at 11:11, but After Mirko Alilović saved the penalty from Eggert, the ever-efficient winger Manuel Štrlek pounced on the chance to deliver his team another lead. Ćupić set Croatia two goals ahead, but the Danish team showed no signs of slowing down. It was Eggert who had a chance to undo his previous mistake scoring from the penalty this time around. Last two minutes were an uncertainty as Denmark was one goal behind and Croatia couldn’t find their way to the goal of Landin. After NicklasLandin saved Horvat’s effort, it was Duvnjak who set the score in the end to 13:15 as the individual quality of the Croatian team’s best player was the difference at the interval.
The second half saw only two goals scored in the first five minutes, and both of them by Denmark. After the missed penalty from Mads Christiansen, the same player made amends to put Denmark one goal ahead at 16:15. Kopljar quickly tied the score, but the momentum was now in favor of the Danish team. A brace fromEggert, completed a 3:0 series, 40 minutes into the match as AndersEggert(best player for Denmark with 8/9) sets21:18 from the penalty. Horvat tied the score mid-way through the half, setting the score to 23:23. Unfortunately it was only a Swan song for Croatia, as it was the closest they could get to the defending champions until the end of the game.Sondergaard completed the 3:0 series, going into the last 10 minutes with 26:23 for the hosts. After Horvat and Bićanić, followed by anamazingKopljar (6/11 overall) brought their team within one-goal difference again LasseSvan Hansen ensured a three-goal margin for Denmark at 28:25going into the last five minutes of the match, as Croatia was desperately trying to catch up. Last three minutes saw defensive battle at both ends, but it also sawboth Wilbek’s and Goluža’s unable to get their teams to score in the last three minutes of the match, after Duvnjak ensured a dramatic finish at 28:26, three minutes before the end with Croatia playing an aggressive full-court press.
The last 30 seconds saw both Toft Hansen and Horvat finally score for their teams for the final score 29:27, but surely late for Croatia, as they will meet Spain in a reprise of the bronze-medal match in Serbia two years ago.
Denmark will meet the French team in the final of the 2014 EHF Euro, in front of the 14,000 fans in Jyske Bank Boxen, in a match between the two deservedly best teams of the Championship.
TEXT: NEMANJA SAVIC