Croatia has advanced to the Main Round of the EHF EURO 2018 despite going down to Sweden in Split on Tuesday night.
Croatia has finished the preliminary round in second place in Group A after a 35-31 loss to Sweden at a full Spaladium Arena tonight.
After two impressive wins in the opening two matches against Serbia and Iceland, Croatia started the match against a stronger Swedish side much more slowly and nervously.
After trading goals in the opening minutes, Croatia started to make errors on attack, turning the ball over 5 times in the first half.
Sweden capitalised with Niclas Ekberg leading the way with a 100% record as the visitors raced out to a 17-12 lead at the break.
The second half started how the first ended for Croatia with Ivan Horvat having his penalty saved and Sweden making no mistake with their opportunities at the other end.
Sweden quickly extended the lead to 8 points early in the second half thanks to clinical finishing from Tollbring, Largergren and Neilsen.
There would be no comeback from Croatia as Sweden maintained their high tempo right to the end. Marko Kopljar was the one bright Croatian light in the second half.
With Croatia’s place in the Main Round already secured, it looked as if coach Lino Cevar was focused on the next match as he kept players on the bench during the second spell as the game got out of reach.
Croatia now faces Belarus on Thursday in their first match of the Main Round in Zagreb, before meeting Norway on Saturday 20 January. Their final Main Round match will be against France next Wednesday.
The points gained in the preliminary group against teams that advance are carried over with group winners Sweden carrying 4 points and Croatia 2.
The Main Round features 2 groups of 6 with 2 teams from each group qualifying for the semi-finals.