REVIEW: Germany and Denmark have to pack and leave France 2017 after the Last 16, but still seven out of eight quarter-finalists stem from Europe
EHF EURO winners Germany, Olympic gold medallists Denmark exit World Championship after Last 16
It does not happen that often in sport that a “day to forget” comes true for several of the best across a number of disciplines. However, on Sunday this was the case.
In the early morning hours European time, tennis' no.1 players, Brit Andy Murray and German Angelique Kerber, lost their Last 16 matches at the Australian Open, then, around 12 hours later, handball's Olympic champions Denmark and EHF EURO winners Germany lost their first knockout stage matches against Hungary (27:25) and Qatar (21:20) respectively.
“Maybe we didn't take that match serious enough,” said German goalkeeper Andreas Wolff after the loss to Qatar.
For Germany it was the second consecutive loss to the 2015 silver medallists on World Championship level. At Qatar 2015, the tournament hosts had beaten Germany in the quarter-finals.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, Germany seemed to be comfortably in the lead at 17:13, but then Qatar's left back Rafael Capote, who scored the last four goals for his team and nine overall, and goalkeeper Danijel Saric, who showed a brilliant performance between the posts, turned the match around.
“We weren't concentrated enough,” said Germany head coach Dagur Sigurdsson whose time with the German team, marked by EHF EURO 2016 gold and 2016 Olympic bronze, came to an abrupt end. His coaching future lies in Japan.
In the quarter-final, Qatar, the last non-European team in the competition, will face Slovenia who beat Russia 32:26.
Denmark lose despite eight Hansen goals
Only two hours before Germany's defeat, Denmark had suffered a similar fate. Five months after they had won Olympic gold, the 2008 and 2012 EHF EURO champions were sent home by Hungary.
Despite eight goals of their star Mikkel Hansen, the Danes lost 27:25. Match winner for Hungary was goalkeeper Roland Mikler who saved 15 shots.
“Maybe the return of our team captain Laszlo Nagy after his injury granted us with some extra power,” said playmaker Gabor Csaszar after the game.
Hungary will face Norway on Tuesday in the quarter-final. The 2016 EHF EURO semi-finalists did not have to go all out to beat FYR Macedonia 34:24 on Saturday.
The match may have been the last on World Championship level for FYR Macedonia's star left back Kiril Lazarov who currently leads the top scorer ranking with 50 goals in six matches.
But Norway's ten-goal win was not the biggest in the Last 16. Sweden won their “run-and-gun” match against Belarus 41:22 (24:11) to set up a quarter-final encounter against France.
The hosts and defending champions beat Iceland 31:25 in front of a record attendance of 28,000 fans in the football arena of Lille. “The support from the stands was incredible. It helped us to overcome our weak start,” said French coach Didier Dinart.
Three Spanish coaches reach quarter-finals
In another quarter-final, European powerhouses Spain and Croatia will battle it out.
EHF EURO runners-up Spain had a tough time beating Brazil 28:27, while Croatia got into troubles towards the end of their 21:19 win against Egypt after they had led comfortably , 13:7, at the break. “Our chances against Spain are 50:50,” says Croatia's coach Zeljko Babic.
Overall, three Spanish coaches – Jordi Ribera with Spain, Valero Rivera with Qatar and Xavier Sabate with Hungary – are still on track to a potential medal.
Furthermore, another two will face in the last match of the President's Cup on Tuesday: Talant Dujshebaev steered Poland, the only European team to miss Last 16, to a 28:26 win over Tunisia.
Poland will face Argentina, who are coached by Spaniard Mateo Garralde who won the EHF Champions League with FC Barcelona several times. His side beat Saudi-Arabia 24:22 to reach the match for 17/18 place.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
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