Even if the point was ultimately meaningless in the final score – Sunday's 28:28 win over Croatia felt like a “victory” for Austria's European Championship handball players, in the words of team captain Ales Pajović. With a collectively strong performance over 55 minutes, Mikola Bilic and co. In an arena in Mannheim filled with Croatian fans, they controlled the joy of the opponent, and got “Turbo” for the decisive fight with Spain.
A draw in the final clash of Group B in the preliminary round on Tuesday (8.30pm/Live ORF Sport +) would be enough for Austria to secure a ticket to the main round Pool 1. The hosts and Hungary then await in Cologne, while other candidates include France and Switzerland (from Group A) and Iceland and Serbia (C). Wing Sebastian Frimmel was realistic despite all the glee. “But it doesn't help us, we have to do it again on Tuesday,” said the Szeged legionnaire. “We certainly don't want to go home.”
The feeling seems possible
Given the convincing performance, an upset against the runner-up world champion now looks possible. After the 29:39 defeat against Croatia, the Spaniards clearly won against Romania on Sunday and must “deliver” against Austria to avoid elimination. “If everything goes well, we can beat teams like that. We can do more,” Frimmel said. “Today's game showed that the big guys can be beaten. I believe it every moment,” said defense chief Lucas Herburger.
In front of 13,293 spectators at the SAP Arena, Herburger ran a defensive system that gave the Croatians difficult tasks to solve, except in the first five minutes. “How we moved on, how we accepted this hardship, how we helped each other,” Frimmel enthused. Croatian stars Luka Cindric and Domagoj Duvnjak raced to a 5-1 lead but could not hold on to this early lead. A disgruntled Croatian coach, Goran Berkovac, would later say they had beaten themselves. “Before the European Championship, Berkovac said it will be easy against us. “It's still good,” Bajovic said with satisfaction.
Peace in hard times
Not only did Austria show the necessary aggression against the Croatians two days after their brilliant start against the Spaniards, they were also largely calm in the tricky phases – especially after their opponent's initial fury. “We always believe in ourselves,” midfielder Lukas Hudecek explained. The reward is a historic decision. Since a 37:37 draw against Iceland at the European Championship on home soil in 2010, Austria have not been able to celebrate a point against a clearly favored opponent in the eight finals between them.
“We really wanted to take something from a big player in this tournament. We mastered it as a team today. It makes me incredibly proud because this team has a lot of potential. We were able to show a lot of that today,” said Bilic. THW Kiel player He was voted “Man of the Match” with seven goals.
“I'm so proud”
In the end, his team's skins seemed to float several times, but they kept their composure after two missed free throws. When goalie Constantin Mostel knocked down the last throw of the opposition, there was a huge celebration, despite being outnumbered. “The last 15 minutes were very difficult. I'm very proud, we gave it our all. “We were patient at the right moment,” said Bajovic. “They fought back and that shows the quality of the team,” said the former Slovenian national and European runner-up in 2004.