Croatia stayed alive in the 2023 World Championships with a 34-26 win over Belgium, with a crunch clash against an already eliminated Bahrain coming up Monday night at Noon (ET). Beating Belgium was the bare minimum to be expected of the Cowboys on Saturday night and they came out with the same intensity as the Denmark match, taking a 21-13 lead into the halftime break.
Unfortunately, Belgium fought back in the second half and held serve, with Croatia unable to increase their 8-goal lead, when they really needed to win by a few more goals due to Denmark’s far superior goal difference. However, the US did Croatia a solid by pushing Denmark a lot harder than was originally expected, with Denmark only picking up a 33-24 win. Pre-match, I had expected a 20-goal win by Denmark to leave their goal difference essentially unsurmountable going into the final day, but the US played arguably their best game of their campaign.
Croatia have been playing catchup ever since their opening match loss against Egypt, but at minimum, they have at least stayed alive until the final match. What does all of this mean for Croatia’s chances? It’s still very unlikely, but not impossible to qualify. Croatia have to beat Bahrain, Egypt have to beat Denmark, and Croatia have to make up a 21-goal difference along the way. Egypt will be looking to avoid playing host Sweden (reigning Euro Champs and probably the 2nd best team in the world right now) in the quarterfinals and thus while they may already be qualified, they’ll still have all the incentive in the world to go looking for a win. Their 2021 heart-breaking quarterfinal loss to Denmark on penalties will also hopefully be a motivating factor in looking for revenge.
From my point of view, if Croatia want to qualify, they are going to have to light up a Bahrain team, which honestly isn’t that bad, and win by 18-20 goals to give themselves a chance, as best case scenario is Egypt winning by 2-3 goals. This is a pretty tall task given that Denmark only beat Bahrain by 15 and Egypt by only 4, but Croatia will have to leave everything out on the court knowing that every single goal could make the difference.
Until the final whistle blows, let’s keep the faith and hope the Cowboys can pull off another Croatian shocker!