Croatia impressively beat Hungary 30-21 and showed they are a force to be dealt with regardless of the absence of Ivano Balić. Despite the long-term absence of Balic, and the short term injury of Blazenko Lacković, the Cowboys had no problem dealing with the Hungarians.
The game was back and forth early on with neither side able to pull away. The refs were very strict from the start as well, giving six yellow cards in seven minutes. Croatia got their first power play 13 minutes in and managed to build a five goal lead in a six minute stretch where Hungary failed to score and Croatia was lethal on quick counterattacks from Manuel Štrlek, Ivan Čupić and Domagoj Duvnjak. Croatia held their lead for the remaining ten minutes and went into the half up 15-11.
Croatia stormed out of the half to take an eight goal lead after a 4-0 run forced Hungary to take an early timeout. They looked in complete control for the rest of the match as the teams traded goals, with Hungary unable to get stops. The game would finish with Croatia deservedly on top by nine. Ivan Čupić led all scorers with eight, Marko Kopljar scored six, and Domagoj Duvnjak added five and was named the player of the game. Mirko Alilović also played exceptionally in goal, saving 37% of Hungary’s attempts.
Slavko Goluza (Croatian coach): We played a great match against a strong team who will definitely make it to the round of 16. My players had a great performance. We have a chance to play for the medals, and my young team will do everything for it. But also well done to Hungary for a great match – they have the chance to go all the way.
Ivan Čupić: “We knew the first two games wouldn’t be too hard, but we came ready and had a good game. We didn’t play well the whole game, but we did for most and the Hungarians had surrendered for the last 20 minutes. Nevertheless, this is an important victory.”
Lajos Mocsai (Hungarian coach): Croatia was better in all elements of the match. The Croatian players played with a great spirit and a great dynamics. Our only goal will be to reach the eight-finals, so we mainly have to focus on the match against Algeria. Spain and Croatia are clearly the strongest teams in our group. Later we will see how powerful we are still in this tournament.
Croatia is through to the knockout round and now must focus on taking care of Egypt on Thursday before their big match against Spain. Egypt tied Algeria on Tuesday, a team Croatia beat by 11, but it will be no gimme as the African Champions fell to Spain by only five goals. Should Croatia win at least one of their final two games, their likely opponents in the round of 16 will be either Poland or Belarus.