Splendid Sweden through to Olympic Games

14 Mar. 2021

Splendid Sweden through to Olympic Games

The last match of the Tokyo Handball Qualification 2020 – Men’s Tournament 3 saw Sweden face Slovenia – a clash guaranteed to be thrilling in recent years. 

There was a lot at stake this Sunday afternoon as only one of the two teams could proceed to the Olympic Games and it was 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship runners-up Sweden who took this spot after a convincing performance against Slovenia, finishing atop the group. 

While the Slovenia will miss out on their fourth appearance at the Olympic Games, Sweden qualify for the third consecutive time. 

Sweden vs Slovenia 32:25 (17:13)

Just 51 days ago, Sweden and Slovenia faced each other at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt, where Matej Gaber salvaged a point for Slovenia with a last-gasp goal (28:28).

Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Palicka and centre back Jim Gottfridsson were back on the playing court after having enjoyed some resting time on the bench during yesterday’s match against Algeria, while Slovenia’s Dean Bombac, who has not played against Germany, started in attack. 

It was his side who took the first – and only – lead after goalkeeper Klemen Ferlin stopped the first attempt on his goal and right wing Gasper Marguc succeded against Palicka. Within 29 seconds, though, Sweden took the lead back and extended it to 6:2 after seven minutes, which saw Ljubomir Vranjes in the need for a time-out. 

As the match progressed, Sweden defended their lead, although Slovenia managed to close the gap to two (11:13) thanks to some good saves from Klemen Ferlin and an inspiring Bombac in attack, who scored all of his five goals in the first half. Slovenia could have then turned the tide of the match, instead, Sweden extended their lead to four and took it into half-time (17:13). 

The most spectacular goal was scored by Slovenia right wing Blaz Janc, who got lucky with his attempt of trying to overcome Palicka, who ran from outside the field into the goal, hitting the ball but couldn not stop it from rolling over the line into the goal (15:18).  

However, Sweden inched further ahead, being back at a five-goal lead and after centre back Felix Claar sent the Slovenia defence into the wrong direction, he marked the 22:16 with 20 minutes left on the clock. 

Although Slovenia never gave up, they had to face their first defeat against Sweden since the last Olympic Qualification Tournament back in 2016. It was also the first defeat for the Swedish-born coach Ljubomir Vranjes, who faced his home country for the third time since he took over just before the EHF EURO 2020. 

“What can I say? The disappointment is huge. We weren’t on the level necessary to go through to the Olympic Games. When I look back at the tournament, we didn’t play a good match yesterday and we weren’t good today. We had some good minutes and moments today but we couldn’t find our best form,” said a devastated Slovenia captain Jure Dolenec after the game. “Our defence was not on the level as the rest of the competition and that’s the most important part if you want to win games.”

While the disappointment was visible on the faces of the Slovenian players, Sweden were shouting and jumping, celebrating their Olympic Games berth. 

“That was a very good match from beginning until the end. The defence was really good and everyone did his job. I am really happy with the team and incredible proud,” said a very satisfied Glenn Solberg. 

Photo: Marco Wolf/DHB