A hammer goal by team captain Nikola Bilyk five seconds before the end secured EHF EURO 2020 host Austria their best-ever ranking at a European championship. After their ninth position in 2010, when they hosted the EHF EURO for the first time, now Austria finish eighth after their 36:36 draw against Belarus.
The draw gives the Austrians their first main round points and, due to a superior goal difference, puts them ahead of Belarus in the final ranking.
“This is an incredible feeling to take this point. Today, everybody in our team believed in himself. It is now something very special to be part of the best ever Austrian team at an EHF EURO,” said Bilyk, who was top scorer of his team with seven goals.
- the combined score of 72 goals is the new high score for the EHF EURO 2020
- the match also set the tournament record for the highest half-time score, a combined 36 goals
- Belarusian right wing Mikita Vailupau was the top scorer with 12 strikes, but failed with his crucial last shot
- it was only the third draw of the tournament, and the second in one night in Vienna after Croatia and Spain drew 22:22 earlier on
Belarus vs Austria 36:36 (19:17)
The whole match was simply “run and gun” – both sides extremely focused on the attack, entertaining the fans with high-speed handball packed with goals.
While Artsem Karalek was unstoppable in the attack position, Mikita Vailupau was as cold as ice from the penalty line and in counter attacks. Both Belarusian players scored five goals in the first half, and Vailupau added seven in the second half.
Austria stood strong, fighting hard for their last EHF EURO 2020 goals, to finish among the best eight and to take their first main round points. At 26:27 and 27:28, the hosts had the chances to turn the match around, but failed.
When Sebastian Frimmel netted in in the 54th minute for a score of 32:34 the match became the highest-scoring of the EHF EURO 2020, surpassing 65 goals scored in the matches between Belarus and Serbia (35:30) and Norway and Hungary (36:29).
Frimmel’s goal galvanised the Austrians and their fans in the Wiener Stadthalle. At 33:34 Robert Weber had the chance to bring the score back level, but failed in a penalty against Belarusian goalkeeper Ivan Matsevich.
Just 20 seconds before time, Vailupau missed the last shot for his team, who were ahead 36:35. After a time-out, Bilyk levelled the match for Austria. Belarus’s goal immediately afterwards into Austria’s empty net came after the buzzer for a dramatic end to both sides’ tournaments.
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Pajovic said the result would boost the sport in Austria.
“It is a big step forward for Austrian handball. The boys showed heart and played like a team throughout the tournament," he said. "They stuck to the plan and, together with the fans who helped us, it was fantastic."