Hungary book last main round ticket; world champions Denmark bow out

GROUP E REVIEW: In a match that had both Denmark and Hungary’s main round fate on the line, Hungary took a 24:18 victory, securing the final place in the EHF EURO 2020 main round and handing Denmark an early exit

Bence Banhidi was critical to Hungary's defeat of Iceland, scoring eight goals. Photo © Anze Malovrh / kolektiff

Hungary decided their own fate as well as that of the world champions Denmark with a 24:18 win over Iceland to end their preliminary round campaign in Malmö on Wednesday night.

The result meant that Hungary not only took the last main round place at the EHF EURO 2020, but that they topped group E and will take two points to the main round, while Iceland will carry zero.

After Iceland controlled the latter stages of the first half, Hungary allowed Iceland only six goals in the second period. They were in complete control as they ended Denmark’s dreams and booked their first main round berth since 2016. 

  • Hungary join Iceland as the second group E team in the main round following an incredible turnaround – from a three-goal half-time deficit to a 24:18 victory
  • Hungary will take two points to the main round, while Iceland begin their campaign in the next stage with zero
  • Hungary line player Bence Banhidi top scores with eight goals for his side, while goalkeeper Roland Mikler records 14 saves at 44 per cent and receives the Grundfos Player of the Match award
  • Iceland backs Aron Palmarsson and Alexander Petersson both pass the 100-goal mark at EHF EUROs during the match


Iceland vs Hungary 24:18 (12:9)

Both Iceland and Hungary had strong motivation coming into the match – Iceland wanted to ensure they would carry points into the main round, while Hungary aimed to secure group E’s second place in the next stage. Hungary’s motivation provide stronger.

After they fell behind in the first half, a great opening to the second period, with line player Bence Banhidi the danger man, saw Hungary bring the match back to level – and from there, they capitalised on the momentum and steamrolled to victory.

Iceland’s attack struggled through the opening minutes and only captain Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson was able to find the goal early on. It took until after the five-minute mark for the left wing to strike, and Hungary had scored three unanswered goals before Iceland made their way onto the score board.

Hungary goalkeeper Roland Mikler had a stellar start, saving the first three shots against him, including a penalty. Mikler maintained a 60 per cent save rate before a timeout called by Iceland coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson in the 10th minute changed everything – after the pause, his team’s attack fell into place and a 4:0 run for the Nordic side was the result.

While only Sigurdsson could score previously, Iceland’s greatest weapon quickly became their back line. After the 10-minute mark, left back Aron Palmarsson notched up four goals before half-time. His counterpart on the right side, Alexander Petersson, scored two, and the two combined for three assists. With their second goals, both Palmarsson and Petersson reached a total of 100 at EHF EURO events.

Keeper Bjorgvin Pall Gustavsson also came into the game stronger, and Iceland’s defence began to force turnovers. Iceland opened an advantage as clear as five goals, 11:6, with just over five minutes until half-time.  

The later parts of the first half had made it appear Iceland were on the path to victory, but in the second period combinations from the back court into line player Bence Banhidi saw Hungary equalise. Banhidi contributed five of Hungary’s six goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period, and with a 90km/h shot from the line, he drew the game level, 15:15.

From that point it was a nervous situation for Iceland – but even more so for Denmark, whose main round fate rested on a win for the Nordic side. The world champions could only watch as Hungary took the game from level to a three-goal distance in their favour, 20:17, as the final 10 minutes began.

When Gudmundsson called his final time out in minute 57, Hungary held a 23:18 lead, and it was clear both Iceland and Denmark needed a miracle that would not come.

Hungary right back Zsolt Balogh said afterwards the noise from the arena, largely in support of Iceland, had motivated his team to perform.

“Of course we believed every second that we can win the game. I am really proud of what we showed in the second half, we were amazing on the court and with this team, with these teammates, I think anything is possible, we can go far in this tournament," he said.

written by Courtney Gahan / jh