With another 5pm kick off we followed much the same schedule as yesterday, with a swim, tactical training session and video analysis before we took the bus to the game.
Going in to our final group match against Croatian champions Vern, we knew we had already qualified for the last 16. We also knew they would pose a very difficult challenge, and we were not wrong.
They pressed us from the start no matter how deep we played, giving us very little time on the ball and making it hard to keep possession for long. They kept the ball much better than us and gave us no time to recover, zipping the ball around the court with great movement from all their players. A combination of great play from them and pressurising us into mistakes meant it was 4-0 within 15 minutes. Realistically it could have more.
At this point we lifted our keeper in attack, meaning we played with five outfield players and no keeper in order to keep the ball better and stretch the opposition. It was a tactic we had been working on a lot in training and something we needed to put into practice in a game situation so we could use it later in the competition. Although risky, the man advantage proved its worth as Ash Daly picked out an unmarked Tom Day with a wonderful diagonal lob that was nodded past the Vern keeper. However just before half time they added another to make it 5-1 going into the break.
We came out for the second half knowing we had to carry on playing the same way. Sitting back for damage limitation might protect our pride on the scoreboard, but would have no real use for the rest of the tournament. We upped the intensity and played much better, continuing to lift the keeper for periods of attack. The score remained the same for over 10 minutes and we created our own share of chances as well.
Eventually our defences were breached again to make it 6-1, and a late flurry of goals in the last few minutes extended their lead even further. With only two outfield players on the bench in an intense game like this, tired legs were certainly becoming a factor.
The final whistle blew with a scoreboard of 11-1 that was hard to look at. It was only our second defeat of the year and easily our toughest game. As disappointed and frustrated as we were, we all knew we had to swallow our pride and look ahead to the rest of the competition. Everyone had agreed on the tactics we wanted to use, and we had a lot of positives to take into our last 16 game regardless of the scoreline.
As Junior told us after the game,the two biggest mistakes in sport you can make is to think you are the best team out there when you win, and that you are the worst when you lose. We knew we had been outclassed, but we also knew we had done everything we could to improve our chances later in the competition.
We left our disappointment behind us in the changing room and began looking ahead to the next game. Back at the hotel we found out we would be playing French champions Paris. Fighting for a place in the last eight against Britain’s age-old rivals; this will be the biggest game of the season so far.