Croatia and Italy faced off in a friendly match in Zagreb this evening.
A rejuvenated team of Italy recorded a narrow 12:11 victory and got revenge for a defeat suffered a month ago. Italy hosted Croatia in a friendly encounter in Imperia early in November. That game was very similar to today’s match, and the result was the same. The score was 12:11 in favor of the visitors.
Croatia – Italy 11:12 (1:4, 2:2, 4:3, 4:3)
Croatia: Bukic 5, Benic 2, Biljaka 2, Krapic 1, Lazic 1.
Italy: Ferrero 3, Bruni 3, Marziali 2 Del Basso 1, Fondelli 1, Di Martire 1, Iocchi Gratta 1.
Italy arrived in Zagreb without any Brescia or Pro Recco players. Before the game against Pro Recco on Saturday, one of Brescia’s players tested positive for coronavirus. As a result, Brescia players were placed in isolation, while the players of the European champion players didn’t travel owing to preventive measures.
Therefore, Italy had seven debutants on the roster, including several players who won silver at the World U20 Championships in Prague in September. A few experienced Croatian players missed the game (Bijac, Vrlic, Vukicevic,Fatovic).
In the first quarter, the Italians stunned the Croats. The visitors jumped out to a 4:0 lead quickly. Luka Bukic converted a penalty shot in the seventh minute to put the hosts on the scoreboard. However, the “Settebello” kept the momentum and built a 6:1 advantage halfway through the second quarter. Croatia began chasing its opponent and came very near (7:8) in the 22nd minute. Still, Italy headed into the fourth period with a 9:7 lead.
The home team equalized in the 26th minute – Benic scored for 9:9. Shortly after, Biljaka gave Croatia a 10:9 advantage. Italy’s Ferrero responded with two goals putting the visitors back in the lead – 11:10 (30th minute). Benic scored on a power-play advantage to level at 11:11 with 29 seconds remaining on the clock. But, Italy earned a man-up with seven seconds to go. Lorenzo Bruni beat the buzzer and found the net in the last second for the final score.
Filippo Ferrero, one of the silver-medalists at the U20 World Championships, and Lorenzo Bruni were the best scorers in the winning team, with three goals each. Luka Bukic found Italy’s net five times.