Iceland followed Hungary to two points with 31:30 victory over Denmark in the second match for group E, wrapping up the first round of preliminary games at the Men’s EHF EURO 2020, with all 24 teams having now taken their first steps on court.
Denmark were the clear favourites heading into the clash, and the victory for Iceland was easily one of the biggest upsets of round 1.
- Iceland take second ever EHF EURO win versus Denmark, edging the world champions by just one goal in front of a packed stadium of Danish supporters
- Iceland’s Aron Palmarsson top scores in a match that proves a superb battle of the backs, with 10 goals, earning the Grundfos Player of the Match award
- Mikkel Hansen becomes the fourth player in history to reach 200 EHF EURO goals, now standing on a total of 203 thanks to a huge nine strikes in the match
Denmark vs Iceland 30:31 (15:15)
While the match was a great contest overall, it was a stand-out 60 minutes for the two sides’ back-court stars, as Denmark’s Mikkel Hansen and Iceland’s Aron Palmarsson hit the goal a combined 19 times. But it was goalkeeper Bjorgvin Pall Gustavsson, as well as Palmarsson’s playmaking skills rather than his shot that proved the key in the end.
Although Gustavsson made just four saves in the game, one of them was the right one, as he kept Iceland in front 30:29 with just over two minutes to play. An assist from Palmarsson into Iceland captain Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson secured a two-goal lead with 92 seconds remaining, and was enough to seal the win. Denmark were left shocked when the buzzer sounded and Hansen could not convert the nine-metre throw over the Iceland wall.
During the game, Hansen became only the fourth player in history to reach the 200-goal mark in his career at EHF EURO competitions. And it was a special match to do it in, as the all-time top scorer in the championship was also on court: Iceland wing Sigurdsson, who counts a total of 274 in two decades of participation following the clash.
In a thrilling game, neither side could create an advantage that would stick until the dying minutes. Although Denmark pulled ahead as clear as two goals multiple times in the first half, and Iceland held an advantage late in the period, the opening 30 minutes ended with an equal score line.
At half-time, the statistics showed how important the teams’ star backs were. While Palmarsson led Iceland with seven goals, Rasmus Lauge Schmidt and Hansen had scored 12 of Denmark’s. After Palmarsson pulled Iceland to their first lead in the match, 12:11 in the 23rd, Hansen struck with a 119 km/h shot that levelled the game and wrote his name into yet another history book.
With the match level at the break, the question seemed to be whether Iceland would have the power to keep close, as Denmark can undoubtedly count on a deeper squad – and Iceland answered with a resounding yes. The game remained tight, with the score at 22:23 for Iceland when Denmark goalkeeper Niklas Landin received a direct red card in the 43rd minute.
Iceland capitalised on the shock for Denmark and moved ahead further, with the score at 28:26 in their favour as the last 10 minutes began. Iceland certainly worked hard – their running distance and number of passes far eclipsed Denmark’s. The 749 passes versus 333 showed the patience in attack that was rewarded at the final whistle as they celebrated an incredible win.
Praising his teammate Palmarsson afterwards, Sigurdsson added: "In the end, it was a lot of small things that come together to help us with getting the two points. I’m proud of the team and happy."
He pointed out that Iceland have, in the past, won their first championship game and then still been eliminated.
"We don’t want to experience and do that again, so we have to keep both feet on the ground. We have to think about that we have a game in two days," he concluded.