28 January 2017
Slovenia and Croatia meet in the biggest test of team psychology – the game to decide the 25th IHF Men’s World Championship bronze medal.
Bronze-medal match: Slovenia vs Croatia, 20:45 CET
After the bronze-medal game at the 2016 Olympic Games, Germany coach Dagur Sigurdsson described the match as the hardest one to play: “This is the most difficult match in handball in my opinion, from a mental side. It shows how far our team have come – I am very happy and proud for my team.”
On Saturday night, will it be Slovenia coach Veselin Vujovic or Croatia coach Zeljko Babic that can say the same of their young team?
Both enter on the back of difficult semi-final losses – Slovenia by a six-goal margin at 25:31 to rampaging hosts France, and Croatia with a final score of 25:28 decided in extra time against Norway. For Croatia, the task is perhaps more difficult, as Slovenia could see their loss coming through the last quarter of their semi-final in particular, while for Croatia it was a sudden blow after they had the chance to win and Norway goalkeeper Torbjorn Bergerud ended that dream with a penalty save after the final buzzer.
It is not only the way they lost that will make things difficult for the Croatians, but the fact that they played their semi-final on Friday night, while Slovenia were on court on Thursday and therefore have had more time to recover – and increase their motivation to win their first-ever IHF World Championship medal.
Though Croatia are a rejuvenated side, they still count more experience in important matches than Slovenia, which could be the factor that works in their favour.
The teams did not meet at any of the most recent international competitions, and both were eliminated in the quarter-finals stage at the 2015 World Championship. But they did contest the bronze medal at the 2013 World Championship, in a match that ended with a 31:26 victory for Croatia with eight goals for Domagoj Duvnjak and four for Slovenia captain Vid Kavticnik.