The bronze-medal match at the EHF EURO 2018 was the great Nikola Karabatic show. The prolific French star top scored for his side with nine goals, but more notably, was the true leader and earned the best player of the match award. France took their second EHF EURO bronze medal, after winning the first in 2008, while the Danes left the court emptyhanded following the 29:32 (14:17) defeat versus the defending world champions – despite 12 goals from Hans Lindberg. It was Karabatic’s 14th individual medal at a major international tournament, between the World Championships, EHF EUROs and Olympic Games.
The rematch of the 2016 Olympic Games Final, won by the Danes, saw a high-speed clash with strong goalkeepers before the break. Jannick Green Krejberg and Cyril Dumoulin each had seven saves in their record after the first 30 minutes. On the other side, Denmark right wing Hans Lindberg was on fire, netting seven times.
After a 3:1 start from France, Denmark, playing most of the first period without top scorer Mikkel Hansen, intermediately struck back and took the lead, but could not cast their opponents off. Steered by line player Cedric Sorhaindo and left back Karabatic, who both scored four goals before the break, France reclaimed the upper hand. The strike for 12:11 was the 250th EHF EURO goal for Karabatic, who, as all-time record holder for France, was playing a milestone 60th EHF EURO match.
As the half came to an end, France recorded a 6:1 series, taking the score from 10:11 to 16:12 – though they missed two penalty shots, taken by Kentin Mahe and Raphael Caucheteux, in that period.
After the break, France kept a consistent three to four-goal advantage, with Karabatic back on track following his weaker performance in the semi-final defeat against Spain. Both sides were clearly tiring after eight important matches in two weeks in Croatia, and as it was played with less speed, the match became more tactical.
France took their first five-goal lead at 28:23, and with that the Danes woke up: Boosted by Lindberg, they scored three unanswered goals to come back into the race for the bronze medal. But when it counted, Karabatic was there. In the final stages, he scored two important goals and contributed the assist for Luc Abalo’s decisive goal, 31:27.
"We are very proud and we are not going to throw this medal away just because it is bronze," Kentin Mahe said after the game.
"We currently built a new team, we lost the game, you should not lose, but as it counted today, we showed the best team spirit. It is special to beat Denmark, as we had lost the last three times," French line player Cedric Sorhaindo commented the victory after the game.
"We are very happy tonight. We had only one bad halftime in the tournament, but this was enough not to be in the final. It was difficult to prepare for the match, we did a great job tonight and we return home with something in our hands," French goalkeeper Vincent Gerard said.
"The fourth place is the worst place you can get at any tournament. We wanted to win something, we did not manage that. We are very disappointed, we had higher goals at this tournament, France were maybe the best team in the tournament, had one bad game and now have bronze. We have nothing," Denmark coach Nikolaj Jacobsen said.