Wings keep Denmark’s semi-final dream alive

GROUP II REVIEW: The Olympic champions crack a tough nut as they beat Slovenia 31:28 after a close 60 minutes, during which Lasse Svan scores 11 goals

Denmark's wings contributed 18 goals to the victory, led by a tally of 11 from Lasse Svan. Photo: Sasa Pahic Szabo

The Danish dynamite was lit again in Varazdin on Friday night. Two days after beating Spain in the final match of the EHF EURO 2018 Preliminary Round, the Scandinavians defeated the World Championship 2017 bronze medallists Slovenia. Thanks to the result of 31:28 (16:14), Denmark have four points in their account after their first main round match, placing them equal with Germany. Slovenia’s chances of making it to the semi-finals were dealt a significant blow, as they now have only one point in their account.

The match winners for the Olympic champions were wings Lasse Svan, who netted 11 times and was awarded best player, while Casper Mortensen tallied six goals. Together with the goal of Hans Lindberg, the Denmark wings contributed 18 of their team’s 31 goals. Slovenia’s top scorer was Miha Zarabec, with six.

In a match headlined by speed, technical and tactical skills, and great goals, the Danes were mostly ahead before the break, with Svan (seven goals before the break) and Mortensen clearly the key players for the Olympic champions. On the other hand, Slovenian mastermind Zarabec was unstoppable.

"It was a tough match, a great game in which both teams played very well and fast. As always in matches against teams of Veselin Vujovic you have to be ready for everything, as he attacks you in many ways," said Denmark coack Nikolaj Jacobsen. "Our defence stood well for 60 minutes. In the second half we improved in attack. But still, it was always close and very hard to win. We are very happy to take this victory against a very good Slovenian team."

As the World Championship 2017 bronze medallists scored only twice in the final eight minutes of the first half, the Danes turned an 11:12 deficit into the half-time lead of 16:14.

The Slovenian fans gave all they had to support their team, but the Danes still played more efficiently in a match that became quite combative in the middle of the second half – demonstrated by the four suspensions – two for each team – between minutes 37 and 41.

When Rasmus Lauge Schmidt hammered in a long-range shot in minute 45, he took Denmark to their first three-goal advantage at 24:21. One day after his 57th birthday, Slovenian coach Veselin Vujovic tried everything to stop the downswing, and took his second time-out exactly eight minutes before the final buzzer.

Vujovic’s players tried hard, but as they failed twice in a row in attack – first against goalkeeper Niklas Landin, then with a turnover – Denmark sealed the deal when Peter Balling Christensen took the score to 29:25.

"Our main problem today was our defence. We played a good game, but we missed some chances. They scored too many goals today," said Slovenia left back Borut Mackovsek. "We really need to focus in the next few days and see what we can do to fix what went wrong today."

written by Björn Pazen / cg