Denmark 25:24 (12:10) Spain
Beogradska Arena, Belgrade
27 January 2012
Denmark are the first finalists of EHF EURO 2012 after beating Spain in a tense match 25:24 (12:10). The result means Denmark have qualified for their second EHF EURO final.
Whilst it was the first defeat for the Iberians in Serbia, the Danes – EHF EURO 2008 champions - took their fourth straight victory.
Top scorers were Rasmus Lauge Schmidt (also awarded as best Danish player) and Julien Aguinagalde (Spain) with six goals each. But Mikkel ‘Hammer’ Hansen, who has seen weak strike efficiency during EHF EURO 2012, decided the game with the last decisive goal.
Denmark await the outcome of the second semi-final between Serbia and Croatia to see who will stand in the way of them and the EHF EURO title.
The first half was a story of uninspiring, low-risk, low-goal handball with a huge number of technical mistakes on both sides as the Danes started weakly, losing the ball on numerous occasions as Spain said ‘gracias’, and extended their lead to 7:3 in the 14th minute.
Intermediately they played like a Swiss watch, perfectly synchronised and well-rehearsed – with nine different players scoring the first 10 goals.
A team time-out then woke up the Danes from their lethargy – and it was then Spain who had problems scoring, as the Scandinavians started closing in at 7:8 and then equalising at 10:10 before taking a 12:10 lead (after four straight goals) to the dressing room at half time.
The highlight of the first 30 minutes was the last action at 29:59; Mikkel Hansen hammered a direct free throw into the triangle of the goal bars for Denmark – an extraordinary action as before this Hansen had not been in the game, missing all five shots before.
Even though Hansen was playing below his normal standards after the break, the youngest of all players in both semi-finals left his footprint. Danish player Rasmus Lauge Schmidt scored a triple strike to make it 15:12 and after Eggert hit the back of the net, the Danish were clear by four goals (16:12) and with it, Spanish coach Valero Rivera had seen enough and took his time-out.
But his team – showing their weakest performance at this EHF EURO so far – still had no ideas in attack, lacked pace and missed too many shots to retake the control in this period although Jorge Maqueda had other ideas and started his own personal catch-up chase.
With three goals in four minutes be brought Spain back to life at the score of 17:18 assisted by his strong goalkeeper Jose Manuel Sierra.
At 19:19 – thanks to the fifth goal from the powerful Spanish line player Julen Aguinagalde – everything was open again.
One thought the Iberians now could turn the game with new self assurance, was proved wrong. In contrast, the Danes scored three consecutive times, as Spain again lacked efficiency in attack.
But the up and down continued, as the Iberians equalised at 23:23. With 75 seconds left to play, the score was 24:24 but another Hansen hammer decided the game and brought the Danes to the final of EHF EURO 2012.
Best Player Award - Denmark: Rasmus LAUGE
Best Player Award - Spain: Viran MORROS
Ulrik WILBEK, Denmark coach:
"It will be our second final in a row at a continental event as last year at the 2011 World Championships we defeated Spain in the semi-finals, and we beat them again today.
“Today’s victory was more surprising, as we have missed several players due to injury, but it was a tactical match with two different defences. Spain used a more open and aggressive defence and we trusted our more closed defence.
“At one stage we had a lead of five goals, but Spain fought back and equalised, although at the end we had the winning hand. I’m very glad about this win.
"In the final, we don’t have any preference on who we play, we know that the crowd will be against us, but we will give our best to win the gold medal."
Kasper SØNDERGAARD SARUP, Denmark right back:
"Our skills individually were the keys to our victory. Lauge and Hansen scored several beautiful goals, whilst between the posts Landin stood well."
Mads CHRISTIANSEN, Denmark right back:
"At the beginning of the match we struggled against the top class Spanish defence, but later on we solved our defensive problems, have improved our game and, thanks to great saves of our goalkeeper, we brought home the victory."
Hans LINDBERG, Denmark right wing:
“We never could imagine that we would reach the final after our weak Preliminary Round - it is incredible as we were so far away from the final!
“Now we have reached our dream destination – but we were very lucky in this weak semi-final, imprinted only by the defence on both sides. It was hard to get close to the goal and to get a chance to shoot.
“In the end we were lucky with our two last shots. We had nothing to lose so I do not care who we will play in the final.”
Lasse SVAN HANSEN, Denmark left wing:
“Before the EHF EURO we had dreamt of reaching the final and winning the gold medal, but after the Preliminary Round we were close to a total fiasco.
“The semi-final was a completely defensive battle with a real low number of goals. The Spanish defence was hard to break down and they put enormous pressure on our attackers.
“Even when we were in lead with five goals in the second half, we could not decide the game as the Spaniards started to show their fighting spirit. But thanks to our defence and goalkeeper Niklas Landin we secured our place in the final.
“I think it was a deserved victory and in the final I would like to take revenge for our defeat against Serbia in the Preliminary Round, but then the arena will be against us. So maybe it would be easier to compete against Croatia.
“Winning the EHF EURO 2012 title would mean not only direct qualification for the Olympics, but also one week more holiday for us – so it is an objective to fight for!”
Valero RIVERA, Spain coach:
"Congratulations to Denmark for their win; they have had a great championship this year. We started well in the match, but the change of the Danish defence allowed them to lead by four goals. We fought back bravely, but could not win.
“Now we will try to recover for the final on Sunday (29 January), we want to come back as strong as possible and win the bronze medal. It was a tough loss today."
Viran MORROS DE ARGILA, Spain left back:
"Denmark had the luckier end of the game so they will move to the finals. We gave a big effort to win ourselves, but we didn’t make it. As for the third place match, a bronze at the EHF EURO can shine nice as well, so we’ll fight hard to win it."
Jose Manuel SIERRA MENDEZ, Spain goalkeeper:
"We had high hopes to celebrate a victory today and go to the finals.
“It’s a big pity about our loss and we gave our best to achieve our championship goals, but we could only level the score. We are disappointed, but will give our utmost to win the bronze."