Big star Domagoj Duvnjak dotted eight goals, including the much-needed penalty in the final second of the first extension, when Norway were defeated in the already classic semi-final shutter. The last decade, for the Croatians, has contained six semi-final berths in different championships, but now Duvnjak and a handballed Croatia are finally looking forward to a final again - for the first time since the European Championships in 2010.
- It feels very important. Ten years is a long time and we are very happy to play a final again. We have heard that it is giant euphoria at home in Croatia and we enjoy it. In Graz, Vienna and here (in Stockholm) we have had our fans behind us and that means a lot, says Domagoj Duvnjak at the final team press conference in the Tele 2 arena.Miss two years ago
The Croatians' last championship title came at the 2004 Olympics. The plan was to change that already two years ago, when the European Championships were held at home in Croatia. But then Sweden took part and put sticks in the wheel for the Croats. After Duvnjak injured himself in the first match, Croatia was defeated by Sweden in Split and later it was precisely the result of a mutual meeting that allowed Blågult and not the home team to reach the semi-finals (and later also final).
Now the roles are reversed - failure for Sweden at home and Croatia in the European Championship final. The Croatians easily trained in the final arena on Saturday, slightly worn the day after the tough 80-minute fight against Norway.
- We are a little tired, but tomorrow we will play the final and do everything to win this tournament. I have won a lot in my handball career, but I have not won a gold medal with Croatia yet, says mittnian Duvnjak, who in 2013 was named the world's best player.Can defend gold
At the same time, the final opponent Spain may be the first country to defend an European gold since Sweden won three straight titles in 1998–2002.
- If we win, we become the European champion, at the same time defend the title of the last championship and become directly qualified for the Olympics this summer. If you put it all in the same bag, it is obviously a unique opportunity for us, says the Spaniards Raúl Entrerríos.
He expects Croatia to receive the large crowd support, just as during the semi-final evening in Stockholm when there were just over 16,000 spectators at the stands.
- I saw some of their semi-finals when we warmed up and it felt like the whole arena was largely Croatian. It will be the same tomorrow, but the most important thing is what we do on the pitch. Croatia has played a good handball throughout the championship and we need to make a complete match, says Entrerríos.
Croatia and Spain met as late as Wednesday, in a match for the team victory in the middle round in Vienna. The meeting ended in a draw, 22-22, and Spain won the group thanks to better goal difference.
CLIP: Croatia to final after double extension drama
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Croatia's players cheer for the secured final place in the handball European Championship. Photo: Photo Agency