Norway collected a crucial two points in their second match of the 26th IHF Men’s World Championship main round, defeating Sweden by three goals after a classic derby. Denmark followed with their seventh victory in as many matches, beating a solid Egypt side thanks largely to their expert use of seven-on-six in the second half.
The results on Monday night in Herning threw the semi-final race in Group II wide open. It remains a contest between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, with Denmark now on eight points while Norway and Sweden count six.
Sweden vs Norway 27:30 (14:17)
The Scandinavian derby delivered just the thrilling encounter expected, with nothing decided until the closing minutes. It was hummel player of the match Magnus Jondal’s 11th goal followed by an important save from Torbjorn Bergerud that sealed the result in Norway’s favour, as Sweden were only two behind with two minutes remaining – plenty of time to level the game or take the upper hand.
Despite the win, the match highlighted what could be a weakness for Norway. After only seven players made their way onto the score board against Egypt in their opening main round clash on Sunday night, just six players contributed goals to the result on Monday evening. Jondal was the lead scorer, also due to his penalty shots, but Sander Sagosen was key, with his assists and seven goals.
Sweden’s defence was highly effective in controlling Norway’s back court, and though Sagosen finished with an impressive individual tally, most of his goals came in the second half when the defence began to crumble. In the first period, Sweden played 6-0 that focused on keeping Norway’s back court out of their favoured shooting positions.
It was for this reason that the wings became so important for Norway, with Jondal reaching seven goals by the end of the first 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, Norway’s accuracy from nine metres was only 17% – even more significant considering both Sagosen and right back Magnus Rod scored 10 goals versus Egypt on Sunday evening. At the other end of the court, Sweden faced tough 6-0 defence themselves – but they managed goals from the back court and line player Andreas Nilsson (five goals and Sweden’s top scorer).
It was a level game throughout. With three minutes remaining in the first half, the score was 14:14, before Norway added the final three goals before half-time to open an important advantage. Early in the second 30 minutes, Norway made the most of two suspensions for Sweden and built their lead to 19:15 by the 33rd. A time-out called by Sweden coach Kristjan Andresson did not help his side stop Norway’s momentum, and Rod’s third goal in the 37th opened a 22:15 lead for the 2017 World Championship runners-up.
Sweden managed a comeback, decreasing the distance to 20:25 as the last quarter began and then 25:27 in the 56th off a long-range goal from Kim Andersson. However, Sweden could not come closer than that, and Norway celebrated the points at the final buzzer.
Statements after the match:
Kristjan Andresson, coach Sweden: Firstly, I would like to say congratulations to Norway. We lost the momentum in the end of the first half. Good game, but Norway was better than us.
Christian Berge, coach Norway: First, I would like to thank Sweden. Today was a lot of running, a game with a lot of pace. We played yesterday and we were very tired. We are happy to have a day off tomorrow.
Egypt vs Denmark 20:26 (7:9)
As the current Olympic champions and semi-finalists at the last European championship, they are one of the strongest teams in the world – but Denmark often face trouble finding their rhythm against sides from outside their continent, and that was exactly the case on Monday night in Jyske Bank Boxen. Though Denmark maintained their perfect record at their home World Championship, they had some trouble getting there, as Egypt presented a solid challenge.
Egypt started with the first two goals of the match and kept the edge through the first quarter before Denmark took the lead. The African side’s defence, changing between 6-0 and 5-1, did an excellent job keeping Denmark’s usual starts such as Mikkel Hansen (five goals) and Rasmus Lauge (one goal) mostly quiet. It was not until the co-hosts employed the seven-on-six tactic in the second half that they began to create a clear gap.
Egypt’s 22-year-old goalkeeper Mohamed Eltayar had a great match, saving many clear chances for Denmark, including a penalty versus Mikkel Hansen in the first half. He left the court in the 50th minute after a run of goals from Denmark pulled the Scandinavian team in front to 21:17. A little earlier, Denmark coach Nikolaj Jacobsen had also changed his keeper, from captain Niklas Landin to Jannick Green.
Egypt left back Ali Zeinelabedin stood out in attack, scoring six goals for his side – mainly off spectacular jump shots from nine metres – while Eslam Eissa provided his usual excellent leadership from centre back.
Denmark had to keep working all the way to the whistle in order to collect the two points, but the win was secured when Green saved a penalty versus Ahmed Elahmar in the closing minutes. Denmark line player Anders Zachariassen received the hummel player of the match award.
Statements after the match:
David Davis, coach Egypt: Firstly, we played yesterday and again today. I have very big respect for Nikolaj and his team. We tried to surprise them today with our 5-1 defence, and it worked at the beginning. We got tired and didn’t know what to do. I’m proud of my players. They tried their best for 60 minutes and we have had a good tournament.
Nikolaj Jacobsen, coach Denmark: I would like to say thanks for a tough match. It was very difficult for us. We had a hard time with the 5-1 defence and couldn’t win the one-against-one matchups. We played too slow. We were good in defence. Started out with troubles, but the seven-against-six worked for us and probably ended up being the reason we won.