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Date: 4/6/2012

European top contenders Croatia and Iceland marched over their opponents Japan and Chile like a knife through warm butter on the opening day of the Olympic Qualification Tournament III in Varazdin, Croatia. 

Croatia vs. Japan 36:22 (16:14)

Even without their injured top star Ivano Balic (shoulder problems) host Croatia had no difficulties in the end to outdistance the Asian runners-up, celebrated by 2500 spectators in Varazdin. But it took a clear improvement after the break to secure a marked result. Japan fought hard in the first 30 minutes and it took some time for the host to adapt to the offensive defense of Japan. 

After the break Zlatko Horvat was the decisive figure for an early decision – by scoring four of his in total six goals he secured the intermediate score of 22:15 in minute 38. Latest then the Japanese were down on the ground, whilst the Croatian goal machine was in full speed. At the 27:17 in minute 47 the distance was ten goals for the first time, and in the end Japan only scored eight times after the break. Top scorers of this one-sided encounter were Ivan Cupic (seven goals for Croatia) and Daisuke Miyazaki (four goals for Japan). Except Damir Bicanic every Croatian field player was in the scorer list. 

Statements after the match:

Slavko Goluza, coach Croatia: “We respected Japan and they played very well in the preparation matches. We started well, but then allowed Japan to return. In the changing room I told my players to give the maximum in the second half - and we played much better in defense what meant a lot of counter attacks and easy goals. We have to improve in the upcoming matches.” 

Zlatko Horvat, player Croatia:  “We played a good match - but only in the second half. We started very good but then we stopped and allowed Japan to score a 7:2 series in 10 minutes. This is something that we have to avoid in future matches.”

Kiyohara Sakamaki, coach Japan: “We were satisfied with the first half, but then Croatia played much better. In future matches we have to play as we did before the half break.”

Toru Takeda, player Japan: “We lost our concentration in the second half, Croatia raised their performing level and we lost. We have to look for our chance in the upcoming two matches.”


Iceland vs. Chile 25:17 (12:7)

As Croatia, so did Iceland: The Northern Europeans had no difficulties in gaining the points against the third ranked team of the Pan-American Qualification Tournament. Thanks to six goals of their brilliant left wing Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (top scorer with in total ten goals from 13 attempts) Iceland led 12:6 and seemed to have pre-decided the game very early.  And when Sigurdsson finished a 10:3 series after the break to 22:10, it looked like a disaster for Chile. But then the 2008 Olympics Silver medalists decelerated completely and gave Chile the chance to reduce the gap and to “win” the last 15 minutes 7:3 – nevertheless the Pan-Americans did not have the glimpse of a chance to switch the game. With 18 saves Björgvin Gustafsson was a solid rock in the Icelandic goal. 

Statements after the match:

Fernando Capurro, coach Chile: “We had our chances, but we couldn't take them. We did everything
we could but it wasn't enough. We lost too many balls, and in a match against a strong team like Iceland you lose, when so many mistakes occur.”

Marco Antonio Oneto, player Chile: “I feel frustrated. We prepared well and I think that we had our chances. We lost this match because we did too many mistakes.”

Gudmundur Gudmundsson, coach Iceland: “We started very good. Our defense stood very strong, the only problem was that we started to relax too early in order to save our strengths for the next matches. The last 15 minutes weren’t so good but in the end we pulled all our power and won the match. We deserved it.”

Olafur Stefansson, player Iceland: “I'm very happy that we won. We had an obligation to win and we gave our best. The Olympic Games are very special so we need to play 100 percent against all teams in the qualification, no matter if it is Chile, Croatia or Japan. I'm satisfied and we are one step closer to London.”

The second match day starts with the encounter Croatia vs. Chile (16:00 local time), followed by the Japan vs. Iceland match at 18:15 local time.