France vs Croatia 20:23 (11:11)
The first goal in this encounter of the two big European handball nations came after three minutes when Nikola Karabatic set up Nedim Remili for the opening strike and then assisted with the next two goals for Didier Dinart’s side, who had already confirmed their place in the final four before the match.
Their opponents Croatia had all to play for though, hoping to avoid a loss to keep their dreams of booking a direct Olympic Games Qualification Tournament spot alive through a place in the 5-8 round.
The first half saw the lead change a number of times with both sides having 3:0 and 2:0 runs, but by half-time the teams were deadlocked, as both goalkeepers - Marin Sego for Croatia and Vincent Gerard for France - had made 13 saves between them, emphasising the defensive nature of the contest. As ever, Zlatko Horvat was a key player for the Croatians, scoring five times in the opening 30 minutes as his fifth brought the scores level before the break (11:11).
With 17,191 fans inside witnessing a tough battle, it took two Croatian strikes from David Mandic at the end of a 3:0 run inside the first 10 minutes of the second half to put another two-goal gap between them and France, and this time, it would not be caught (15:13 – 39th minute). Following another 3:0 run just before the 50th minute mark, the game was over as Horvat made it 20:16 (50th minute).
For his 10 saves in the match (36%), Sego was awarded the best player of the match, Horvat ended with seven strikes from seven attempts, while Melvyn Richardson ended with five strikes from five attempts for France.
Both teams now await the final match of Main Round – Group II between Sweden and Denmark to find out their opponents, for France, in the semi-finals, for Croatia in the 5-8 Placement Round.
hummel Best Player of the Match: Marin SEGO (CRO)
Statements after the match
Lino CERVAR – Coach, Croatia: We deserved to win because we played with great enthusiasm, persistence and character. Our defence was strong with density and in attack we had many solutions. I am today very happy.
Didier DINART – Coach, France: Croatia fought for one hour, it is true that they were at 100% as it was very important for them to reach the tournament for Olympic qualification and from our side, maybe as we have qualified for the semi-finals already, we didn’t give our best tonight.
Jakov VRANKOVIC – Player, Croatia: The defence was good, and we only let in just 20 goals and this is the way we need to play, we showed that if we (concede) 20 goals, we can beat anyone, it doesn’t matter if it is Spain or France, we will find it hard to lose against anybody. It is strange that we have beaten the world and European champions and we are not fighting for the semi-finals because of one bad half against Brazil, but this is sport, and this is life. I hope we will take some lessons for the future competition.
Nedim REMILI – Player, Croatia: It was a tough, hard match, because the Croatia defence was very strong. Croatia made a gap and we were not able to improve and come back at the same level and at the end the gap is not so strong, we are a little upset, but we don’t need to think too much about this defeat, and we can look forward to the semi-finals.
Brazil vs Iceland 32:29 (15:15)
Now they wait. After their win against Croatia earlier on in the main round, Brazil were hoping to not only get a victory against Iceland in this match but hoping for other results to go their way later in the day.
While they cannot control what happens later, they certainly controlled this one as they left Iceland with their third defeat in three main round games.
Brazil already had a 5:0 lead after seven minutes, as Gudmundur Gudmundsson’s Iceland failed to start in a concentrated and quick way and Gudmundsson addressed the malaise by taking his first time-out soon after. Slowly they came back, but it took them the whole rest of the half with Sigvaldi Gudjonsson equalising (15:15) with just over 20 seconds left.
Up until the last quarter the game was even, but when Haniel Langaro gave his South American side a two-goal lead (26:24) in the 49th minute, they were not caught again.
Poignantly for Iceland, their last goal of this world championship was scored by Elvar Orn Jonsson, his seventh of the match.
This goal reduced the Icelandic deficit to just three (32:29), but in what Gudmundsson has repeatedly described throughout the championship, his side is a young team in the early stages of a three-year project.
Jonsson epitomises that project with the 21-year-old – who scored 23 goals at the 2017 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship in Algeria in the summer of 2017 – playing in all eight Iceland games at Germany/Denmark 2019 and one of six players in the 16 today who are 21 years old or under – Haukur Thrastarson again came onto the court, with the 17-year-old making another brief appearance.
While the future looks bright for Iceland, for Brazil, they could make even more history later today – if results go their way. If not, this championship has already been a success.
hummel Best Player of the Match: Jose TOLEDO (BRA)
Statements after the match:
Washington NUNES DA SILVA – Coach, Brazil: I have a lot of respect for the Icelandic coach and the Olympic title they won in Rio, but I am very happy with the result today. Even though they had injured players, Iceland are still a very hard team to beat and I am very happy with the result and the players. Our defence worked well today, and we had a lot of problems with the counter-attacks of the Icelandic team. This last game of the main round leaves us happy and very, very proud, we just did our best performance at the world championship and it looks good for the future.
Gudmundur GUDMUNDSSON – Coach, Iceland: We started very bad, making it a 5:0 game to Brazil, but we were fighting well towards the end of the first half. We started the second half the same way we started the first and even though we came back it was too much in the end. They played very well in attack and defence and they deserved to win the game.
Henrique TEIXEIRA – Player, Brazil: Their fast-breaks were hard to defend as they are fast, but we had a good game in attack.