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Date: 1/29/2018
 

After two weeks of thrilling competition in Croatia, the EHF EURO 2018 concluded in Zagreb on Sunday, January 28. Spain defeated record EHF EURO title holders Sweden with a commanding performance in the final to claim their first ever continental trophy, finishing with a 29:23 victory secured with masterful defensive tactics devised by coach Jordi Ribera.

 

In the first half of the final, it appeared the four-time EURO champions Sweden were the stronger side, as they took a 14:12 lead into the break thanks in large part to a strong 30 minutes from goalkeeper Mikael Appelgren (11 saves at 48%). Spain returned with more offensive defence in the second half, and kept Sweden to just three goals in the opening 20 minutes, while they created the decisive advantage that would win them the trophy.

 

Sweden and Spain entered the final with very different track records in the EHF EURO trophy match – as Sweden had won all four finals played, in 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2002, while Spain had always finished as runners-up, in 1996, 1998, 2006 and 2016.

 

Earlier in the evening, in a rematch of the 2016 Olympic Games final, France took the bronze medal with a 32:29 victory over Denmark, avenging their defeat in the trophy match in Rio de Janeiro. The world champions were led by a stand-out performance from three-time – and current – World Handball Player of the Year Nikola Karabatic, who contributed nine goals to his team’s effort, as they rotated young players such as Nedim Remili and Romain Lagarde to work with the experienced centre back.

 

“We currently build 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,” said France line player Cedric Sorhaindo, who scored five goals in the bronze-medal match.

 

The semi-finals, played on Friday, January 26, saw somewhat unexpected results as Spain defeated France with surprising ease. Spain were at the top of their game and completely controlled the match, while France were below their usual form, finishing with a 27:23 result that booked the ‘Hispanos’ their fifth EHF EURO final berth.

 

In the second semi-final, Sweden had a late scare as they were in front 28:25 with two minutes on the clock, before Denmark fought back to equalise right before the buzzer thanks to a goal scored by right wing Lasse Svan. The match therefore went into extra time, and Sweden managed to reclaim the upper hand to finish with a 35:34 victory. 

 

With the European trophy, Spain also book their place at the 26th IHF Men’s World Championship in Germany and Denmark, while Sweden will contest the play-offs.

 

More information on the EHF EURO 2018 can be found here.

 

Photo: Uros Hocevar/EHF

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