The final weekend of the EHF EURO 2018 will start with the placement match for fifth and sixth position – and the situation for the two participants could not be more different.
5/6 PLACEMENT MATCH, Zagreb
Croatia vs Czech Republic
Friday 26 January, 15:30 local time, live on ehfTV.com
Hosts Croatia hoped for much more, while Czech Republic have already far exceeded their expectations: This is the situation prior to the 5/6 placement match. After the EHF EURO 2018 hosts lost their chance to make it to semi-finals on home ground against France on Wednesday night, the sting of disappointment is severe. “We have to accept that we missed the semi-finals. Now we want to beat the Czechs,” Croatia line player Marino Maric said after the 27:30 defeat to the world champions.
With Croatia’s elimination, the EHF EURO curse continued two-fold: First, the former world and Olympic champions will have to wait at least two more years for their first EHF EURO trophy, and second, the series of no hosts winning the trophy on home ground since Sweden did so in 2002 was extended.
On the other hand, the Czechs are extremely proud to have a “bonus match” – in which they can equal their best ever result at EHF EURO final tournaments: In 1996, they finished fifth. The last time Czech Republic ranked among the top 10 was in 2010, when they placed eighth.
“We were the underdogs from the start, and after our 15:32 against Spain in the opener. But from match to match this team grew and improved. Now we will enjoy our last action on court in Croatia,” said coach Daniel Kubes.
The bonus match is also the chance for Ondrej Zdrahala to extend his lead in the top scorer ranking. Currently, the Czech left back is on 42 strikes – 13 goals ahead of Mikkel Hansen, the next in line who remains in the competition. Czech goalkeeper Martin Galia will become the all-time record player in terms of EHF EURO matches for his national team, 32, when he takes the court against Croatia.
The historical results speak clearly in favour of the Croatians, who have won six of seven matches against the Czechs. Czech Republic have only defeated their upcoming opponents once, at the World Championship 1995.