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Date: 4/7/2012

Nearly everything is decided at the Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Varazdin: Host Croatia and Iceland have easily booked their tickets for the Olympic Games in London thanks to their each second clear victory. On Sunday 8 April both contenders will face in the direct duel to decide the final ranking. After Sweden and Hungary had qualified for the Olympics before in Gothenburg, already four of six participants coming from the Qualification Tournaments are known.


Chile vs. Croatia 15:35 (9:17)

For the fourth time in history after 1996, 2004 (each Gold medalist) and 2008 (fourth place) the Croatian men have made their way to the Olympic Handball Tournaments on Saturday 7 April. As expected the hosts did not have any difficulties to book their ticket, as it was another easy Easter walk for the Croatians after clashing Japan the day before 36:22. In no second of this one-sided game the victory for the Croats was endangered, the Pan-Americans were like a playing ball for the two times Olympic champion. After a great start with four goals of right wing Ivan Cupic the Balkan team took an easy lead, and latest at the 12:9 Chile was close to the host. Scoring five straight goals until the halftime whistle the Croats had decided the unequal match already at the break. 

Scoring two 7:0 series after the break the team of coach Slavko Goluza extended the gap to finally 20 goals. Top scorers were Zlatko Horvat and Hrvoje Batinovic with each six goals, no Chilean player scored more than twice.

The qualification for the Olympics is something very special for coach Slavko Goluza – as he was Gold medalist as a player 1996 and 2004 and was assistant of Lino Cervar four years ago in Beijing.


Statements after the match:

Fernando Capurro, coach Chile: “I don't have much to comment, this match was a clear victory of Croatia. There was a big difference in the way we played yesterday and today, but Croatia was better in all aspects.”

Emil Feuchtmann, player Chile: “I'm very disappointed as today's game wasn't good for us. It was easier to play against Iceland, today we fought, but without a result. It was a disaster for us.” 

Slavko Goluža, coach Croatia: “Congratulations to both teams - Chile for the big fighting spirit, and to my team for securing the participation at the Olympic Games in London. This victory was expected, 
but tomorrow we will have a much stronger opponent. Iceland is stronger than at the European Championship in Serbia, and we have some medical issues. Denis Buntic is injured and was not in the squad, Marko  Kopljar also has a small back injury and can play only in defense. Regardless of that, I want to win tomorrow and secure the first position here.” 

Jakov Gojun, player Croatia: “Chile fought very well, but this is a big success for us, as we qualified for the Olympic Games in London and we are very happy. We didn't start this match as we wanted, but we improved when the match progressed. All my teammates received the opportunity to play and nobody got injured. We have one more match against Iceland tomorrow and we want to win and secure the first position.”


Japan vs. Iceland 30:41 (11:20)

Four years ago they were the big sensation winning the first ever Olympic team sports medal in history for their country, now the Icelandic players celebrated again. For the sixth time in total – and the third straight time - the “Geysir team” have made their way to the Olympics – and like on Friday 6 April against Chile they did not have a tough challenge on Saturday against the Pan-Americans from Chile. Like in all three previous matches before in Varazdin, the game was one-sided and decided very early. Thanks to their sharp counter attacks, the Icelandic took an early clear lead, which they remained until the end. 

Until the 10:15 Japan was close, but then the Northern Europeans took total control, led by right back Olafur Stefansson and pivot Robert Gunnarssson before the break. From 15:10 the Icelandic went away to 24:14 in minute 38 and then saved powers for the crucial match against Croatia on Sunday. As everything was decided Japan could keep the gap at eleven goals – and were close looking on the result of the second half only (19:21). Gunnarsson (nine goals) and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (seven goals) were the top scorers for the Europeans, as Daisuke Miyazaki again was the most successful Japanese player with six goals.


Statements after the match:

Gudmundur Gudmundsson, coach Iceland: “We are very happy with the game because we've qualified for the Olympics for the third time in a row. For a small nation this is a very big thing. Last time we've 
won the silver medal so the expectations are high. Tomorrow we play against Croatia, both teams secured their place in London already and I think it will be a very tough match and it'll depend on the energy saved in the first two days.” 

Ingimundur Ingimundarson, player Iceland: "It was a very good game for us, we prepared well because we played against Japan in Sweden at the World Championship so we knew how they play. We were really motivated and we're happy as we secured the qualification for London. Tomorrow is also an important match for us because of the draw position in London and we want to win it.”


Friday’s results:

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

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

Sunday’s matches:

15:30 local time: Japan vs. Chile

18:00 local time: Croatia vs. Iceland