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Date: 10.04.2016

Croatia booked the first of Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament III’s tickets to Rio de Janeiro with a one-sided six-goal victory against Norway to open the final day of games in Herning. Home side Denmark followed with a close game against Bahrain that ended with a victory for the Scandinavian side, who top the group with five points. 

Jyske Bank BOXEN, Herning
Croatia vs Norway 27:21 (14:7)

The support from around 600 fans that made the trip across the Skagerrak Sea to Herning proved not enough to boost Norway to really threaten Croatia in the deciding match for one of the group’s Olympic tickets. The win qualifies Croatia for Rio, while Norway have to await the result of the match between Bahrain and Denmark before they know their fate. 

It was only seven minutes into the match that Norway coach Christian Berge needed to call his first time-out. At that point his team was already down 0:5 against a very focused and determined Croatia team. It took another 30 seconds for Norway to score their first goal, with Christian O’Sullivan reducing the deficit to 1:5. 

However, neither the time-out nor O’Sullivan’s goal helped Norway settle in to the match, as they had particular problems with Ivan Stevanovic. The 33-year-old Zagreb goalkeeper saved Norwegian shots from all angles to finish with an amazing 73 per cent save rate in the first half alone.

Stevanovic was an important, though not the only, factor in Croatia’s domination through the first half, and with six and a half minutes remaining of the first period Berge called his second time-out when his team trailed 4:13. Norway managed to reduce the gap a little as the half-time buzzer drew near, but it was clear they would need a much better second half if they were to overcome the seven-goal difference.

Stevanovic continued his impressive performance from the start of the second half, and the match was long decided when he called it a day and left the goal to Ivan Pesic. Croatia coach Zeljko Babic had called up right back Luka Sebetic for this last match in the group, and had no reason to regret that decision as Sebetic performed a great second half in attack with four goals from four shots. 

Norway decreased the score line a little towards the end of the match, but they never came close to the draw that would have sent them to Rio.

Bahrain vs Denmark 24:26 (12:12)

While Bahrain had no chance to reach the Olympics when they took to the court on Sunday, Denmark could afford a defeat of up to three goals and still qualify. But such concerns were only relevant for a short while during the first half, when Bahrain managed to lead by exactly three goals. 

For large parts the match followed a similar pattern to Bahrain’s first two games. Despite missing their two best right wings and their two best right backs due to injury, Bahrain were able to follow their opponents through the first half once again. Their aggressive defence frustrated the Danish attack quite a lot, and Denmark suffered a goal drought of 10 and a half minutes around the middle of the first half enabling Bahrain to move three goals in front to 7:4 before the hosts caught up by half-time.

At the beginning of the second half Denmark looked set to steamroll their opponents, as it did not take them long to create a five-goal difference at 17:12. The Danes even moved to a seven-goal lead at 22:15, but unlike in their first two matches of the tournament, Bahrain came back into the game.

Bahrain reduced the deficit to only one goal at 22:23 and 23:24 within the last five minutes, but they were not able to close the gap completely and in the end, Denmark again increased the advantage to three goals and removed the last trace of doubt about the result.