Iceland broke a curse that has haunted them over the last two editions of the Men’s EHF EURO on Monday night in Malmö, following up their impressive round one win versus Denmark with a 34:23 victory over Russia to keep a perfect record in group E.
The outcome was all but decided when Iceland took a seven-goal lead into the half-time break, and they had little trouble holding on to collect their second set of two points at the final whistle.
- a masterful defensive game against Russia takes Iceland to their first two-game winning streak at one EHF EURO since 2014
- Iceland level their record, set in 2002, for biggest EHF EURO win with the 11-goal victory
- after having scored 10 goals against Denmark Aron Palmarsson held scoreless
- Iceland now lead group E with four points following two wins, and are in a solid position to end a six-year wait for a main round berth
- with his four goals at 80 per cent accuracy, Iceland’s Viggo Kristjanson earns the Grundfos Player of the Match award
Iceland vs Russia 34:23 (18:11)
At the two previous editions of the EHF EURO, Iceland won their opener against a powerful opponent – first Sweden, then Norway – before being defeated in their subsequent preliminary round matches and missing a place in the next stage.
In 2020 however, they are in a promising position to proceed, as a clear win against Russia saw the Nordic side move up to four points in the first group E match on Monday night in Malmö Arena. Their place in the main round is not yet decided, but Iceland are in the most favourable position of any side in group E.
After a shaky few minutes to open the game from both sides, Iceland were quick to take control. Iceland’s defence supported by a strong game from goalkeeper Bjorgvin Pall Gustavsson was the key, as Russia struggled to find clear shooting chances. Russia’s scoreless period of six minutes from the 10th, 5:3, to the 16th, 10:4, was critical in Iceland’s commanding lead at half-time – and the outcome was essentially clear with the 18:11 result at the break.
Gustavsson maintained a save rate above 40 per cent through to the early minutes of the second half, and his record included a stop versus a 130 km/h rocket. Meanwhile, Russia alternated between Victor Kireev and Oleg Grams between the posts. Russia’s defence did a decent job in quietening Iceland’s back court, and after he scored 10 against Denmark, Aron Palmarsson could not find the goal at all versus Russia.
However, the wings from position and the fast breaks proved an effective tool for Iceland, especially in the first half, and they remained firmly in control after they opened the decisive advantage in the first quarter of the game. When Iceland held a 30:22 advantage in the 50th minute, there was no question they would claim the win.
With the final score line, Iceland levelled their record for their biggest EHF EURO win – 33:22 versus Switzerland, also in Sweden, in 2002.
Russia remain on zero points after two defeats, but remain in contention for the main round, pending the results of the Hungary versus Denmark clash later on Monday night.
Left wing Bjarki Mar Elisson said belief took Iceland to the win.
"I knew the Russians were disappointed with their first game. I knew they are heavy players, and that if we could get our defence going we could run some counter attacks. I think we managed that today, in a good style," he said.
Both @HSI_Iceland's ???????? goalkeepers were on ???? tonight! Viktor Gisli Hallgimsson's saves at the end of the game took Iceland to one of their biggest ever EHF EURO wins!#ehfeuro2020 #dreamwinremember pic.twitter.com/cckF97eenP
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 13, 2020