Semi-finals an all-European affairArticle
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France, Sweden, Spain and Croatia set to battle for the medals in Sarajevo after narrow quarter-final victories

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Semi-finals an all-European affair

Four major European handball nations have made through to the semi-finals of the Junior World Championship in Bosnia Herzegovina as the winners of four close and thrilling quarter-finals on Wednesday (24 July).

On Friday, France will face Sweden, while Men’s 20 EHF EURO champions Spain fights against Croatia in the semi-finals.

After a tough and highly intense clash with Egypt, the French players were dancing and singing on the court, after their 35:33 (14:16) quarter-final victory.

Due to enormous problems in defence at the beginning, it took until the 45th minute for France to grab the lead for the first time, thanks to a Nicolas Boschi goal to make it 23:22.

Two minutes before the end, France opened up a two-goal lead for the first time at 33:31 and held on to take the win.

Swedes remain flawless

Sweden, the only team with a perfect record of seven wins from seven matches, had to break down the resistance of the Netherlands in their quarter-final to take a 30:25 (10:13) victory.

Netherlands were backed by the brilliant performance of goalkeeper Bart Ravensbergen and held a well-deserved led at the break.

However, in the second half Sweden improved, took their first lead at 18:17 and did not look back from there. Brilliant goalkeeping from Peter Johannesson helped the Swedes stretch their lead to 25:22 and the Dutch challenge came to an end.

European under-20 champions Spain had a high hurdle to clear with surprise package Switzerland standing in their way after their unexpected win over Denmark in the last 16.

Led by their brilliant individual shooters Alex Dujshebaev (top scorer with eight goals) and Juan Fernandez alongside goalkeeper Daniel Arguillas, the Spaniards decided the game in the final five minutes.

17 saves by Swiss goalkeeper Nikola Portner kept them in the game for most of the 60 minutes, but a late surge from Spain gave them a 26:22 (13:12) win.

Croatia pushed all the way

European under-20 silver medallists Croatia were left to worry until the very end, as Pan-American champions Brazil were level for 58 minutes.

Once again it was a goalkeeper, Filip Ivic, who was the key for the 23:21 (10:11) quarter-final success. His teammates could have decided the match much earlier, but missed too many promising chances.

Brazil showed a flexible defence and could count on their extra-ordinary back court shooters – leaving the match on a knife-edge at 21:21. A double strike from Luka Cindric and Teo Coric paved the way to a hard-earned berth in the semi-finals for the Croats.

On Thursday (25 July), the World Championship continues with the next matches in the placement rounds 9-16 at the Zetra hall in Sarajevo.

Denmark vs. Tunisia (15:00 hrs.) and Bosnia Herzegovina vs. Argentina (17:30) play in the round for the positions 13-16, while Germany vs. Serbia (12:30) and Hungary vs. Slovenia (20:00) are the games in the round for positions 9-12.

The semi-finals and the first placement matches in the round for the positions 5-8 will follow on Friday (26 July). In this round, Egypt face Netherlands and Switzerland plays against Brazil.

The only final placement for a European team, Russia, is confirmed. They won the President’s Cup final against Korea 37:33 and finished in 17th position.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor