Slovenia secured their-first ever podium finish by beating Croatia ©IHF

Slovenia secured their-first ever International Handball Federation (IHF) World Championships podium finish as they edged Croatia 31-30 in a thrilling bronze medal match at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.

The Slovenian side rallied from 18-13 behind at half-time to seal their maiden World Championships medal.

It represented their best result at an international handball event since they finished second at the 2004 European Championships on home soil.

Gasper Marguc, Darko Cingesar and Marko Bezjak were joint top-scorers for Slovenia as they all found the net on four occasions.

“I don’t know how we won this game, really,” Slovenia coach Veselin Vujovic said.

“The Croatian team made a good performance and played perfectly for around 58 minutes.

“We opened the game very bad, especially in defence.

“We conceded 18 goals in the first half, that’s too much, but in the last ten minutes, we started to think that we had a chance to win this game.

“And finally we won, I’m very satisfied, it was my dream.”

Slovenia fought back from a five-goal deficit at half-time to record a superb win over Croatia ©Getty Images
Slovenia fought back from a five-goal deficit at half-time to record a superb win over Croatia ©Getty Images

Croatia, bronze medallists in 2013, started the better of the two teams and opened up a 6-4 advantage early on.

Slovenia then trailed 8-6 before they moved to within one of the Croatian team at 9-8 behind.

Croatia enjoyed a run of three unanswered goals before they edged even further ahead thanks to Marko Mamic’s effort, which extended their lead to 12-8.

They maintained the four-goal gap with five minutes of the first half remaining and they started the second period in a similar vain.

Domagoj Duvnjak scored his third to install a 22-15 lead for Croatia, who looked to be heading towards the bronze medal.

Slovenia had other ideas, however, as they closed the gap to 29-28 with a minute left on the clock.

Cingesar levelled and Slovenia then edged in front for the first time in the match through Borut Mackovsek, before they saw out a dramatic win to break Croatian hearts.

The final between France and Norway is scheduled to take place tomorrow.