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20.05.2020, 10:00
When Mikkel Hansen won his first gold with Denmark
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GAMES TO REMEMBER: Serbia had the chance to win their first major gold medal on home court, but had little chance in the Men’s EHF EURO 2012 final against Denmark, whose golden generation was just starting to emerge
 

When Mikkel Hansen won his first gold with Denmark

You could hear a pin drop by the time the final whistle was blown in the Men’s EHF EURO 2012 final. Serbia’s hopes to clinch their first gold medal in the Kombank Arena in Belgrade were dashed by a superb Danish side, which had strong players in their prime and some future stars ready to emerge on the big stage.

It was a game for the ages, two evenly matched -up teams colliding, in an old-school defensive stand-out, as Denmark played their best game of the tournament to earn their second gold medal in four years, winning the final 21:19.

On Wednesday (20 May) at 18:00 CEST the final between Denmark and Serbia will be streamed in full on the EHF EURO Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Pre-match analysis

20,000 fans were in the arena for Serbia during the tournament and many more crossed their fingers for a gold medal for the home side.

The Serbian side did not impress, but did just enough to progress to the final, especially after a hard-fought 26:22 semi-final win against Croatia, which pumped up the fans even more.

On the other side, Denmark had a topsy-turvy tournament. They won only one game in the preliminary round, which left them with little room to maneuver in the next rounds.

A must-win game against Sweden (31:25) to conclude the main round was the last hurdle before Denmark giving their all to overcome the Spanish challenge in the semi-final. Denmark won 25:24 in a game that turned into a nail-biter, despite the Scandinavian side constantly leading the game.

The finalists had already met in the group phase: Serbia won that game 24:22 in a defensive showdown between the two sides, which set the tone for what was going to happen in the big final.

Breaking point

Denmark looked sharper and more focused during the game, taking the lead early and never relishing it. But Serbia did mount a challenge and nearly tied the score (16:15) in the second half.

Despite riding the wave provided by their rasping fans, Serbia never did tie the game and it was too little, too late for them.

With Mikkel Hansen in superb form, the Danish side took back control, opened a three-goal gap (21:18) in the final seconds of the game and won their second gold medal at the EHF EURO.

Player of the match – Mikkel Hansen (Denmark)

One of the best left backs ever to play the game and also one of the most popular players in his era, Hansen had already been one to watch for a few years.

But the 22-year old Danish stalwart really outdid himself in the final, in front of 20,000 raucous fans. Hansen scored nine goals in the final, constantly finding new ways to break down the Serbian defence.

The All-star left back of the tournament finished the EHF EURO 2012 with 45 goals and his constant input helped lift Denmark to their second ever gold medal at the EHF EURO.

Unsung hero – Niklas Landin (Denmark)

They say experience comes with age and a goalkeeper is better at his zenith than when he is young, but Niklas Landin, only 24 at the time, had a superb game, limiting Serbia to only 19 goals scored during the final.

Landin made a key contribution in both halves, saving some otherworldly shots, as he constantly frustrated the Serbian attack throughout the game. He did not feature in the All-star Team in 2012, but bulldozed his way two years later.

Best quote

“We had hopes to bounce back after the first two losses in the group phase, but in our minds, we realised it was probably over.” – Ulrik Wilbek, coach Denmark

Handball is not always about what happens on the court, but also about the mental strength of the team. Denmark showed plenty of that at the EHF EURO 2012 and had a comeback for the ages after two losses in the preliminary round.

Play of the day

Stranger things have happened in handball than a team tying a game despite being two goals down with 30 seconds to go, but Denmark really pushed the tempo and focused during the business end of the tournament.

Serbia stole a ball and had the chance to reduce the gap to only one goal, but the Danish defence bounced back, Hansen took his time and scored the deciding goal with a few seconds left on the clock.

Consequences

With Hansen and Landin still not yet in their prime, Denmark looked set to dominate men’s handball in the next decade.

However, the Danish side only won a single medal in the next four EHF EURO tournaments, silver in 2014. Most of the times they fell short of their ambitions, especially in January 2020, when they even failed to progress from the preliminary round for the first time since the current format was introduced.

However, they became world champions in 2019, fulfilling the potential displayed a while ago.

On the other side, Serbia never recovered from the letdown on their home court in 2012. Changing their lines, they went beyond the preliminary round only once, in 2018, but they only won two games from the 15 played in the EHF EURO.

Fun fact

This was the first EHF EURO in history where the eventual champions lost two of their first three matches but bounced back and went on to win the tournament.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew
 
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