The three hosts of the Men’s EHF EURO 2020 - Sweden, Norway and Austria - as well as many more participants took the courts in the last international week of the calendar year. While Norway were defeated twice and Sweden had a win and a defeat, Austria won both their test matches.
France win Golden League
The standout competition last week was the Golden League in Denmark, where defending EHF EURO campions Spain, world and Olympic champions Denmark, EHF EURO 2018 and World Championship 2019 bronze medallists France and World Championship runners-up and EHF EURO hosts Norway clashed.
France won the first semi-final against Denmark 31:27 thanks to great comeback in the final stages and after the hosts had been ahead 15:14 at the break. Spain edged Norway in a very close game 28:27 (17:17) in the other semi-final.
In a rematch of the World Championship final, Denmark won the bronze-medal match against Norway - but needed a penalty shoot-out to do so after the 60 minutes had ended 29:29.
The final between France and Spain also needed a shoot-out to determine the winners. Spain led 18:15 at half-time, but France levelled in the second half (31:31) before winning the tournament on penalties, 36:34.
“At one point we were down by five goals, but then it became obvious that our team has a soul and a great character,” French head coach Didier Dinart said. French right back Dika Mem was awarded MVP of the Golden League event.
Austria gain lot of confidence
EHF EURO 2020 hosts Sweden faced Iceland in two matches in Karlskrona and Kristianstad. The EHF EURO 2018 silver medallists lost the first encounter 27:26 despite nine goals from Daniel Pettersson, but hit back with a 35:31 win in the second match, with Kim Ekdahl du Rietz and Albin Lagergren both netting seven times for Sweden, while Aron Palmarsson led with six goals for Iceland.
The third EHF EURO 2020 hosts, Austria, gained a lot of confidence by two victories against teams that will take part in the European Championship in January. The team of Slovenian head coach Ales Pajovic first beat Serbia 32:30 before also winning against Netherlands, 26:24, with both matches being played in EHF EURO venue Sporthalle Graz.
“Those victories were extremely important for our heads, besides we know now which parts of the system we will have to work on,” Pajovic said.
Later, Serbia also lost to Slovenia (30:24), while Netherlands tied with Slovenia (29:29) and beat the B-team of Poland (27:24).
Mascot Winni delights Zagreb crowd
EHF EURO 2016 champions Germany beat Croatia twice by a one-goal margin. First they won 26:25 in Zagreb after nearly squandering a five-goal lead. One very special visitor made the match to an unforgettable experience for all fans as the official mascot of the EHF EURO 2020, Winni, had a great appearance on and off the court.
Later, Germany won 24:23 in Hannover during the ‘German Day of Handball,’ attended by 10,000 fans. Goalkeeper Dario Quenstedt became the hero as he saved a Croatian penalty on the final buzzer.
Switzerland are ready for EHF EURO
Two more EHF EURO participants clashed twice in Switzerland, with the hosts showing that they are ready for their first EHF EURO tournament since 2006. Switzerland beat Czech Republic, who finished sixth in 2018, twice: 35:25 and 30:29.
Belarus underlined their ambitions with two victories against Lithuania: a 45:25 drubbing in the first match was followed by a much closer one in the second, 30:27. Ukraine recorded a defeat (25:20) and a win (29:27) against Tunisia, while North Macedonia remained unbeaten in four test matches, beating Turkey (26:23), drawing with Italy (26:26) and winning twice against Georgia (25:21, 29:28).
Russia, Poland and a Spanish B team travelled to Argentina, and surprisingly the hosts lifted the trophy after winning all three matches - 20:19 against Poland, 24:22 against Russia and 29:25 against Spain - in the sold-out arena in San Juan. Also, Russia beat Poland (30:19) and Spain (32:28), while Poland and Spain tied 24:24.