Clashes between Croatia and Austria in any sport are quite extraordinary, especially in Vienna, where lots of Croats live. This ensured a full hall of spectators cheering loudly for both teams from the very first minute.
Before the game the most discussed topic in Vienna´s Stadthalle was whether host nation Austria could cause another surprise in the championship or favourite Croatia would defeat them and take a significant step towards the semi-final.
The Balkan country surprisingly started with centre back Ivano Balić on the bench. Yet the Croatians had a better start.
The hosts seemed to have too much respect for Croatia and many technical errors littered Austria´s game. Lino íervar´s team quickly took full advantage to establish a three-goal lead.
After disappointing performances in previous games, Croatia´s young star Domagoj Duvnjak finally found the rhythm of the game and was responsible for most of their goals at the beginning.
The Austrians soon changed to a different defensive system, playing very offensively, almost man-marking their opponents. As this system failed the highly-motivated Balkan express overran the Austrians, with the Croats increasing their lead to five goals.
But the Austrians never gave up, and backed by their home crowd, they staged an impressive comeback. By half-time they had closed the gap to a single goal.
In the second half, both teams increased the pace, with Austria looking to equalize, whilst íervar brought on Ivano Balić to clinch the match. The watching spectators also turned up the volume, seemingly intent on raising the Stadthalle roof.
An exciting game ensued with Austria´s defence standing up well, and a strong Austrian goalkeeper Nikola Marinovic performing heroics between the sticks.
The experienced Croats managed to increase their lead, and it was once again HSV right back player Domagoj Duvnjak who scored the important goals.
Austria bravely fought for the equaliser, but this time, the miracle would not come.
In another close game Croatia managed to bring home victory with a score of 26-23, and took another step closer to the semi-finals of the EHF EURO 2010.
Austria were naturally disappointed but performed well. With a performance like this, they have a good chance of beating Russia on Thursday and thus securing fifth place in the group.
Croatia - Austria 26:23 (11:10)