Photo: IHF
12. Jan. 2019 01:02

Group C: Wins for European sides in opening clashes

Returning to the IHF World Championship after missing the 2017 edition, Austria started their GER/DEN 2019 campaign with a solid win over Saudi Arabia. Following a level start, Austria opened a clear lead late in the first half then fought off a comeback in the second to join Denmark on two points on the Group C table.

2017 World Championship silver medallists Norway closed the round for Group C with a commanding win against African champions Tunisia. Despite the clear final score line, it was a quality game that showed both teams are dangerous opponents.

Saudi Arabia vs Austria 22:29 (9:15)

Though they finished at the lower end of the ranking at the previous European championship, Austria were still favoured to take the two points against Saudi Arabia when they opened the Group C matches in Herning on Friday evening. It was the first game in the final venue, Jyske Bank Boxen, after Denmark defeated Chile in the opening match for the group in Copenhagen on Thursday. Austria did not enjoy the same dominant win the World Championship co-hosts did versus Chile, but they played a steady, safe game and secured an important two points at the final whistle.

Austria started with a fairly slow tempo in attack, deliberately setting up plays that created opportunities for backs Nykola Bilyk and Janko Bozovic, who proved the main problem for Saudi Arabia’s defence. As the first quarter came to an end, 6:7, four of Austria’s goals had come from nine metres.

Saudia Arabia’s attack was effective, with a fast pace that opened gaps and a stand-out performance from left back Mahdi Alsalem. Alsalem contributed half of the Asian team’s goals in the first 15 minutes.

The main difference the led to Austria’s edge through the opening was between the posts. Thanks to some great saves from goalkeeper Kristian Pilipovic and their own accuracy at the other end of the court, Austria’s shooting efficiency was far higher than their opponents, though Saudi Arabia took more shots. After a near-level game at the end of the first quarter, Saudia Arabia could not find the goal for 12 minutes, while Austria streaked ahead to lead 13:7.

When Austria held that comfortable advantage with five minutes left in the opening half, their accuracy stood at 81%, compared to Saudi Arabia’s 44%. A direct red card for Saudi Arabia’s Hassan Aljanabi looked to hint at a downswing for the Asian side – but keeper Mohammad Alsalem saved the resulting penalty and his side proved far from done.

As Austria’s efficiency gradually dropped, Saudi Arabia fought back to 14:18 in the 43rd minute, prompting a time-out. The time-out was critical as Austria regained control and created a clear advantage at 23:17 as the last 10 minutes began. Coach Patrekur Johannesson could afford to rotate his line-up through the final stages, with Bilyk and Bozovic coming off in defence, before the backs retired to the bench when their team pulled ahead to 26:19.

After his team celebrated a seven-goal victory, Bilyk was named the player of the match.

hummel Player of the Match: Nykola Bilyk (AUT)

Statements after the match:

Patrekur Johannesson, coach Austria: First I want to thank Saudi Arabia and the coach for the game. About the game, I was satisfied with the first half. We played good defence and Kristian Pilipovic saved very well. At the beginning of the second half we didn’t play so well, but I’m happy that when Saudi Arabia came close to us – three goals, four goals – we did play better. Two points against a good team and now all our focus is on the next game against Chile.

Boris Denic, coach Saudi Arabia: Congratulations to both teams for a fair and correct game. Congratulations to the national team of Austria for the win. Everyone who saw the game saw how Austria played today – they played better, played faster, played stronger and took two points.

I congratulate Austria but at the same time I would like to congratulate my boys because everything we arranged and agreed in the changing room, we did in the game – but it was not enough. But step by step, we are building something for tomorrow, and I think this has been one step toward what we want to do in one year in the Asian Games.

Kristian Pilipovic, player Austria: I don’t want to waste many words. Our focus is on Chile.

Mahdi Alsalem, Saudi Arabia: First of all, congratulations for Austria. I think we played a strong team with a high level of handball in this game. We came close a little bit but then they played very fast, they played very strong and the goalkeeper saved a lot of goals. But this is a first step and now it’s finished we are looking forward.

Tunisia vs Norway (13:18)

Although 2017 World Championship runners-up Norway became the third European side in Group C to collect two points against an intercontinental rival in the first round, they faced a bigger threat than Denmark and Austria. The current and record African champions Tunisia presented a physically strong, fast-paced and determined challenge to the Scandinavian side – but Norway were even faster, as is their trademark, and could also rely on exceptional defence supported by an in-form Torbjorn Bergerud.

Norway opened the first two-goal gap at 5:3 in the seventh minute, at which point their goals had come from all over the court – the only player on the field who was not on the score board was centre back Christian O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan provided excellent leadership from centre back, and Norway’s attack was highly efficient, with an 80% conversion rate while Tunisia scored only 50% of their goals in the opening minutes.

Tunisia’s shooting troubles haunted them throughout the match and were a deciding factor. While Bergerud naturally deserves credit for his numerous saves, the African side also threw clear of the goal or hit the crossbar on numerous occasions. Norway’s defence was focused on intercepts and the anticipation as they were ready to run counter attacks at every opportunity was clear. The Scandinavian side pulled away to a comfortable advantage by the end of the first half, before Tunisia staged a temporary came back.

Early in the second period, Tunisia coach Amor Khedhira tried playing an aggressive 5-1 system marking out Sander Sagosen, but the African team were quick to retreat back to 6-0 when the back proved unstoppable. Still, Tunisia closed the gap to three goals five minutes into the second period, 16:19 – but the hope they surely felt at that moment was soon crushed.

When keeper Marouen Maggaiz saved a penalty in the 40th minute, Norway had already reopened a five-goal gap, 23:18. 10 minutes later, when Tunisia took a time-out, Norway had taken a decisive seven-goal advantage, 29:22, and the distance only grew from there.

Norway’s Magnus Jondal was the top scorer of the game with nine goals and received the hummel player of the match award.

hummel Player of the Match: Magnus Jondal (NOR)

Statements after the match:

Jihed Jaballah, player Tunisia: When we started the game, we forgot that we were playing against Norway. We played without complex. They are a very strong team, very good players, but it’s a handball game. We just want to enjoy the game.

It was a very good game in the beginning – it was two or three goals. But we missed a lot against the goalkeeper. He had a good performance today. We allowed a lot of goals on fast breaks and that was the weakness in our team.

We can play better than that, but we played well in attack and in defence we fought. We stopped them in some moments, but they killed us with fast breaks and they are such fast players. I hope we will be more concentrated in the next game and will not miss too many goals like this.

Eivand Tangen, player Norway: I didn’t expect that we would win by 10 goals. I think they’re a good team and if our goalkeeper wasn’t as good as he was, and the little things, then it could be a much more even match than it was.

Group D: Angola cause first big upset, Argentina draw with Hungary

The first big surprise of the tournament was caused by Angola today in group D, as the African team closely beat Asia’s number 1 side. In the second intercontinental encounter, Argentina, as well, fought bravely and drew with Hungary. In the last match of the day, the fans in the Royal Arena saw Sweden defeat Egypt.

Angola vs Qatar 24:23 (12:8)

Angola had a good start in their first match at the tournament. Saves from their goalkeeper and a lot of goals on the other end quickly got them a 4:1 lead.

A strong defence from Angola made it difficult for Qatar to score goals. In addition, their goalkeeper Muachissengue was in excellent shape and ended the first half with 11 saves (61%). Rome Hebo, who was awarded Player of the Match, scored the last goal in the first half.

Danijel Saric began the second half in the goal for Qatar, and they started much better than they did in the first half. The game got more equal but Angola were in the lead most of the second half. Despite several 2-minute suspensions on the side of Angola, Qatar did not manage to take the lead. Danijel Saric in the goal made a difference but Giovany Muachissengue on the other end continued his high level of first half. With 4 minutes left in the game, Qatar got their first lead since the 0:1. Danijel Saric made two important saves and put the pressure on the team from Angola. Rome Hebo scored with 15 seconds left, Qatar shot on goal, but a save from Angola’s goalkeeper gives them the opportunity to score, they do – and that surprisingly made Angola the winners of today’s first match in group D.

hummel Player of the Match: Rome Hebo (ANG)

Statements after the match:

The assistant coach from Angola was very happy about their victory. But he was very humble and was telling about their journey to get where they are today. “We enjoy being here, and we can use all the training we can get. We take one game at the time, and it’s going to be difficult but we can only do our best.”

Angola’s Goalkeeper Custido Gouveia agreed with his coach. “We are here to learn and get better. Our next games will be tough, but I am sure that we will play our best.

Valero Rivera, head coach of Qatar was not happy. Despite that, he congratulated Angola on their victory. “We’ve just played the most horrible game in over 5 years. They were better than us in almost every aspect of the game. All we can do is look forward to the next match and forget that this game.”

Wajdi Sinen agreed with his coach. “Today was really not our day. Angola beat us because they were good and we weren’t. Hopefully we will do better in our next game against Egypt.”

Argentina vs Hungary 25:25 (10:13)

The second game in group D was between Argentina and Hungary. First goal was scored after 3 minutes, and Hungary quickly were in the lead, 5-0. Hungary’s goalkeeper Roland Mikler starts the tournament in an impressive manner with a lot of saves. The first goal for Argentina is scored after 11 minutes by Lucas Moscariello. Argentina struggled a lot in the offence against a very compact and strong Hungarian defence. Hungary’s number 9, Zsolt Balogh played a great first half by scoring 5 goals. Argentina fought back and after 22 minutes they were only one goal behind. Argentina’s goalkeeper got a 2-minute suspension for entering the pitch before one other player came out. Hungary were now in front with 3 goals. The last goal of the first half was a 7m-throw by Zsolt Balogh to end the first half 10:13. He scored seven goals in the first 30 minutes.

Argentina started the second half with three scored goals in the first 5 minutes. They were much better in the defence than they were in the first half. Now Hungary struggled. 35 minutes into the game, Hungary’s most important player, Laszlo Nagy made his entrance into the tournament with a goal. After 39 minutes Argentina took the lead, 16-15 for the first time in the match. Zsolt Balogh scored his goal number 10, and levelled the game at 21:21 with 10 minutes left. Pablo Simonet is playing a good game for Argentina. With 5 minutes left, Argentina’s goalkeeper, Matias Carlos Schulz saved a penalty, giving his team the chance to get in the lead – they do, and the score suddenly was 24:23 to Argentina. Hungary made too many mistakes and with 3 minutes left in the game Argentina could expand their lead with two goals. With 15 seconds left, Ronald Mikler made an important save. It was a close match, without any winners.

hummel Player of the Match: Pablo Simonet (ARG)

Statements after the match:

“I think it was a very good match. Two teams who both wanted to win. We got a draw, and I think the result is fair,” said coach of Argentina, Guillermo Milano.

Federico Matias Vieyra complemented his coach. “The result is good for us. Today we were good in the defence, and in the offence, we need to be a little bit better, but in total we are happy for the one point against Hungary.

Head coach of Hungary, Istvan Csoknyai was not satisfied with his team’s performance today.

“It’s our first match at this tournament. We knew that this game against Argentina wouldn’t be easy. We didn’t play our best, but it’s a good result for us. Of course, we wanted to win, but unfortunately, we didn’t. But there is a new game soon, and we hope to perform much better then.”

Hungary’s Ferenc Ilyes agreed with his coach. “Everybody expected us to win the match today, but we knew that it would be a very difficult match. And it did – we got a draw. But nothing is over yet. It’s a long tournament with many games.”

Egypt-Sweden 24:27 (11:13)

The third and last game in group D was the encounter between Egypt and Sweden. In an almost yellow Royal Arena, it looked like we’re going to end this day with a bang. Albin Lagergren scored the first goal and the fans in the arena went crazy, cheering for their team. The keeper from Egypt began the match very well. It was a nervous start for both teams, with not that many goals and many technical faults in the first 15 minutes.

Mikael Appelgren kept Sweden in the lead with a lot of good saves. Kim Anderson is back on the Swedish national team and after 20 minutes he scored his first goal in the match. Egypt struggled a bit in attack, having a hard time scoring, and they needed saves from their goalkeeper if they wanted to compete with Sweden. They fought back, however, and scored the last goal in the first half.

Sweden was in the lead 15:11 after 33 minutes. It was a great start in second half for the Egyptian goalkeeper Karim Hendawy but Sweden continued scoring fast break goals. Egypt was hanging on, but they still had to fight a little bit more for their goals than Sweden did.

15 minutes were left of match day 2 in Royal Arena Copenhagen as Sweden were in the lead, 16:21. Egypt fought back, and the difference was now only two goals, 19:21. Andreas Palicka replaced his goalkeeper colleague and started off with a brilliant safe. With eight minutes left, the match was level. Egypt had made a fantastic comeback. They were chasing the two points, and maybe another big surprise in this group today. The last five minutes were intense, and you could feel it by watching both teams. Goalkeeper Karim Hendawy kept Egypt in the game with some important saves in the last minutes. Jim Gottfridsson scored, a technical fault from Egypt, and Sweden could almost smell the victory. Jim Gottfridsson scored the final goal – Sweden won 27:24.

hummel Player of the Match: Lukas Nilsson (SWE)

Statements after the match:

“The first match in a tournament is always difficult, so I want to thank Egypt for a great game with good intensity and fight. For us to be winners, we need the important goals and saves in the end, and we got that, so I’m happy.” I also want to thank all our fans tonight,” said Kristjan Andersson.

Wing player Jerry Tollbring also wanted to thank Egypt for an intense match. “We were good in the defence, but we weren’t good enough at making fast break goals. And this atmosphere in Royal Arena tonight almost feels like home. Thank you to all our fans for an amazing support.”

Venio Losert praises his players for their performance tonight. “Congratulations to all my players. It was a tough match, but we were fighting till the end. In moments we play on a very high level, but today that wasn’t enough. Despite that, I am happy about our performance against a good team.”

It was a tired Yehia Elderaa who sat at the post match conference. “It was a tough start against a strong team, and we couldn’t do more than we did today. We gave our best. Nothing is over, we have to keep focused on our next game Sunday against Qatar.”