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19.11.2015, 13:00
Goalkeeping heroics highlight the EHF EURO 2012 Final
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HEROES OF THE FINAL: The EHF EURO 2012 winner was decided between the two standout performers in goal, as Darko Stanic and Niklas Landin share their memories of the unforgettable final
 

Goalkeeping heroics highlight the EHF EURO 2012 Final

One of the most memorable duels of the EHF EURO 2012 happened in goal. Both finalists, Serbia as well as Denmark, had their goalkeepers in top form throughout the tournament.

On one end of the court stood Niklas Landin, then a 23-year-old. At the other end of the court, between the posts of the Serbian team, stood Darko Stanic, the eventual All-star Team best goalkeeper.

Actually, both goalkeepers were awarded ‘best player’ for their respective teams after the match.

Landin: We did not feel we could lose

“Things had been going our way since the start of the main round to such an extent, that when we entered the court for the final, we simply did not feel we could lose," Niklas Landin remembers.

The Danes had been on the edge of flying out of the EHF EURO 2012 in their first match in the main round against Macedonia, where only a last second goal from Hans Lindberg saved their existence in the tournament.

However, Serbia had an entirely different experience ahead of the final as they  set the pace from early on, even defeating the powerful Danes in the main round of the competition (24:22).

Everything clicked together for them and as they had gained a lot of confidence ahead of the semi-final against Croatia, with Stanic on song, Serbia crafted a comeback win against the EHF EURO 2010 finalists (26:22).

"That semi-final was not our best game, but we were a different team coming back into the second half, knowing it was too good of an opportunity to pass. It had to be the final," recollects Stanic.

Low-paced, low scoring final

"I remember the match itself as a very low-scoring match (21:19 for Denmark) and a match, in which there did not really come that many shots towards me, as the Serbs tried to take the pace out of the game.

"It can be frustrating for a goalkeeper to have to wait as long for the shots, as I had to in that match, but the fact that I got a good start to the match, and the fact that I felt that the defence in front of me was doing really well made my job easier," Niklas Landin tells ehf-euro.com.

"I also remember an enormous support for Serbia from the spectators, but I did not really have any influence on us. However, it was a great experience to win the final in front of so many people," he says.

Stanic had recorded an average of 14 saves per match during the EHF EURO 2012, standing out as one of the key reasons behind the Serbian low-scoring game maintained by the lock-down defence which lead them all the way to the final.

"We have played a great tournament all the way to the final, and I do not feel we were the inferior side to anyone. Even the Danes who came all the way to win the championship were by no means a dominant side.

"We had beaten them in the main round, and everyone talked about it hoping we can repeat that success. However, the final was a different match altogether," says Stanic.

"After the tough semi-final, when we fought until the last man standing, we went into the final believing we owe it to ourselves and the public to show what we can do in that one game.

"However, in reality, we were literally exhausted. We had several injuries in the team and lacked the edge to win the final. The Danes just had that extra bit of freshness and played with more energy than we did."

Some goalkeepers get extra motivation from the duel against their colleague at the other end of the court, but Landin is not one of those.

"I do not pay much attention to what the opposite goalkeeper is doing. Of course, I notice if he makes a save, but apart from that, I focus entirely on my own game," he explains.

Standout achievement

The EHF EURO 2012 silver was the first medal for Serbia. "The EURO brought a huge pressure upon us. It turned out to be a positive one. We wanted to do something great for our country. We wanted to achieve something monumental for the people to remember us by,” says Stanic.

Being his first EHF EURO title, coming as a follow-up on the World Championship 2011 silver medal won just a year before; it comes as no surprise that the winning performance at the European Championship in 2012 still stands out for Landin.

"Of course, it was big and it still is. There is no doubt, that that triumph is one of the absolutely greatest in my career, and also that the final was one of my greatest experiences so far," Landin says.

Despite missing out on the big prize, his Serbian counterpart also holds the EHF EURO 2012 among his dearest memories.

"This silver medal is the crown achievement of our generation. I often spoke to my teammates during the championship, saying: This is our dream. Why should let anyone steal it, if we have dreamt it.

"When I look at the championship from a distance, I feel we gave our utmost effort to get to the final. Obviously, we were sad and disappointed to have lost, and it prevented us from celebrating the silver for what it really was – a major success," admits Stanic.

Back to the top

Another European Championship is coming up soon, and Landin hopes and believes that he and the final tournament in Poland in January will see and his teammates back in the top.

"I think we have something to revenge after not playing particular well at the World Championship in Qatar back in January.

"As people will probably remember, we lost by one goal to Spain in the quarter-final, and that meant that we missed the chance for another medal. We certainly want to make up for that in Poland, and I think it is realistic to have some rather high expectations," says Landin.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ts
 
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