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Handball: Croatia beats Portugal to keep Olympic hopes alive

Handball: Portugal ends Croatia’s Olympic Games hopes

Marino Marić during the IHF Tokyo Handball qualification tournament, Croatia vs Portugal (Photo credit © Jozo Cabraja / kolektiff)

Croatia has beaten Portugal in a thriller in its second match at the IHF Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Montpellier to keep their hopes of booking a ticket to Tokyo alive.

After last night’s loss to France, Croatia needed to beat Portugal on Saturday to stay alive and after trailing for almost the entire match, they managed to fight back to win a thriller 25-24.

Croatia opened the scoring but would trail almost immediately as Portugal took control of the first half. They would lead throughout the half and enjoyed a 3-goal lead at the break. 

Looking to turn around the deficit in the second half, Croatia started to make mistakes on attack and Portugal would capitalise, stretching their lead at one stage to six goals. 

Handball: Portugal ends Croatia’s Olympic Games hopes

Ivan Martinović (Photo credit © Jozo Cabraja / kolektiff)

Croatia fought back to finally lead 24-23 with just over a minute remaining and then scored again with 20 seconds remaining to make it 25-24.

Croatia would hang on for a thrilling win.

“We are thrilled. We don’t know how to do things without drama. We were nervous in the first half. In the second half we had a plan and our defence helped us get back in the match. We missed too many shots in the first half. In the end we pulled it out and showed when our defence is working we are good,” said coach Hrvoje Horvat after the win.

Handball: Portugal ends Croatia’s Olympic Games hopes

Ivan Martinović and Ivan Čupić (Photo credit © Jozo Cabraja / kolektiff)

The IHF Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament 2 is taking place in Montpellier and features Croatia, France, Tunisia and Portugal.

Each team plays each other with the top two teams qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Croatia, who has two points now with Portugal, plays Tunisia in their final match on Sunday. Portugal will play France in their final match. 

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