The last few seconds ran, the Brazilian defense stood compact and left no gaps. Domagoj Duvnjak was only one last desperation throw from nine meters, easy prey for the opposing keeper, and in return fell the 29:26 for Brazil - the two-time Olympic champion was beaten. Croatia's handball players had lost their good starting position in the fight for the semi-finals.
The German team should have been happy about Brazil's victory on Sunday. If the DHB selection in the evening (20.30 clock, live ticker SPIEGEL ONLINE; TV: ZDF) meets Croatia, they can make their sporting goal at the World Cup already perfect: A victory and Germany is in the semi-finals of Hamburg, which takes place on Friday. It is the first match point, should it be forgiven, there would still be the third and final main round match against Spain on Wednesday. For Croatia, the duel is already in the category "all or nothing".
The table currently looks like this:
1st France, 4 games, 7: 1 points, goals: +14
2. Germany, 3 games, 5: 1 points, goals: +18
3. Croatia, 3 games, 4: 2 points, goals: +5
4th Spain, 3 games, 2: 4 points, goals: 0
5. Brazil, 3 games, 2: 4 points, goals: -12
6th Iceland, 4 games, 0: 8 points, goals: -25
"If someone told us before the tournament that we can do it prematurely, we would have called him crazy," said Bob Hanning. For the second time now, Brazil has been providing support for the German team at this World Cup. In the preliminary round, thanks to the victory of the South Americans against Russia, the German draw against the Russians was a strike.
More decisive, however, is how Brazil beat Croatia. National coach Christian Prokop sat in the Cologne arena in the stands and should have followed with interest, as the Croats could bring from the playing style of the opponent from the clock, as Duvnjak was disturbed.
How to beat Croatia?
The world handball player of 2013 is the defining figure in the technically and militarily strong Croatians. Sometimes Duvnjak initiates a hit with an ingenious action, then closes the throwaway back space player of the THW Kiel itself. Every move goes over the 30-year-old, he makes the famous difference.
SASCHA STEINBACH / EPA-EFE / REX
When Duvnjak went down to the tournament a year ago at the European Championships and was later completely out of action, the European Championship ended for Croatia with a disappointing fifth place. The concentration on Duvnjak makes the offensive game of the Croats also calculable.
Brazil were in a 5-1 formation with five players defending on the circle, the sixth standing a few meters in front of the team mates and attacking Duvnjak just over the midline. Almost the entire 60 minutes went that way. Nevertheless, the Croats continued to rely on Duvnjak as passer and play designer, tried to give him gaps for breakthroughs, but usually were technical errors or hasty deals the result. Overall, there were nine goals for speed rivals.
6-0, 5-1 or 3-2-1?
Of course you can not take a Duvnjak out of the game, as proven by his six goals against Brazil. No other Croat scored more goals. Even the strong German defense Duvnjak will not get completely under control. But there is a lot to suggest that the DHB selection can attack as forcefully as Brazil.
Prokop has prepared his team well for the World Cup and can play with two defensive systems. With the classic 6-0 formation, where all six outfield players defend tightly together and move together, avoiding any gaps. It's the most common defense system in handball, and could give Duvnjak too much space for his brilliant passes and hefty throws from the nine-yard line.
The 3-2-1 defense seems to be more suitable. With this formation, the national coach and his team have already put pressure on France, especially in the early stages, when the German team had conceded almost seven minutes without conceding. Germany also moved against Iceland only when Prokop switched to 3-2-1.
In this variant - similar to the 5-1 system of the Brazilians - the foremost player steps further out and disturbs the opposing playmaker, ie Duvnjak. The chance: In case of ball losses of the opponent, the German team can switch quickly and come to simple counter-goals, which is what Brazil has succeeded.
The risk: The chief of defense (Hendrik Pekeler or Patrick Wiencek) must speak more and coordinate the side people more than in the 6-0 network, the system requires enormous concentration, and that is one of the points that can be said of the German team so far , Against Russia, in the final phase, a victory that was already believed to be safe was playfully frittered away.
But the World Cup has also shown that the German defense to goalkeeper Andreas Wolff is the showpiece, maybe even as strong as in the European Championship victory in 2016. These are good omen before the duel against Croatia and superstar Duvnjak.