ATHENS, Greece -- World champion Croatia won the men's
handball gold medal Sunday, finishing an undefeated run through the
Olympic tournament with a 26-24 victory over Germany.
The Croatians won in Atlanta in 1996, but failed to qualify for
the Sydney Games four years ago. They won the world championship in
Portugal last year.
Germany played without Pascal Hens, one of its most experienced
players, who was injured during a game against France last Sunday.
Germany lead 12-11 at halftime, and the score stayed close until
midway through the second half, when Croatia tied it at 17 and then
Down 23-21, Germany turned the ball over on a bad pass, and
Niska Kaleb scored his third goal, getting the ball past goalkeeper
Henning Fritz into the lower left corner of the net.
Croatia then tightened its defense and got goals by Blazenko
Lackovic and Mirza Dzomba that clinched it.
Dzomba, who was also a member of Croatia's gold medal-winning
team in Atlanta, led the way by scoring nine goals. Croatian
goalkeeper Vlado Sola -- whose dyed red hair matches his team's
colors -- made 11 saves.
Germany started the tournament with impressive victories against
Greece, Egypt and Brazil, and got into the semifinal after winning
a penalty shootout over Spain 32-30. The Germans then beat
defending Olympic champion Russia 21-15 to reach the final.
Russia beat Hungary 28-26 to claim the bronze Saturday.