The big rematch: Egypt target historic win versus Denmark

25 Jul. 2021

The big rematch: Egypt target historic win versus Denmark

The step before defeating the ‘big’ teams is coming close to beating the big teams. In men’s handball in 2021, there is no team bigger than current world champions and defending Olympic title holders Denmark – and Egypt were the only side close to winning against the Scandinavian side at the 27th IHF Men’s World Championship in January.  

In what has been widely referred to as one of the best games in the history of handball, the World Championship quarter-final between Egypt and Denmark in Cairo on 27 January needed over 80 minutes to find a winner. After the 60 minutes of regular time ended level, the match proceeded to two periods of extra time before a penalty shoot-out finally decided a 39:38 victory for Denmark. 

“[We’ve] definitely been hearing a lot that it was one of the best games in history and I believe it was. The game was crazy, going from one side to the other,” says Egypt right wing Mohamed Sanad. “It was one hell of a match and definitely everyone enjoyed watching and everyone was on their feet. Unfortunately the best match in history wasn’t a match that we won.”

It was a heart-breaking end to their home World Championship campaign for Egypt, who made it to the quarter-final with one of the best records in the event – four wins, one loss and one draw that decided Denmark as their opponents in the first knock-out stage game. Adding to the heartbreak was the fact that if the COVID-19 pandemic had not struck and caused the event to take place behind closed doors, Egypt would have been playing in a packed Cairo Stadium supported by thousands of fans and would have very likely have been that much harder to beat. 

In handball, there is nothing quite like a loss decided in a split second – in a match where the outcome is clear long before the end, or even a few minutes before, the defeat does not come as such a shock and rip away any hope that was there just a moment before. In a game where a team has every reason to hope the outcome can still go their way, the loss hits that much harder. 

Adding the circumstances of the pandemic situation that impacted the World Championship where Egypt dreamed of repeating their nation’s best ever result in the event for so long – fighting for the medals by reaching the semi-finals in 2001 – and the luck of facing Denmark in the quarter-finals, the defeat was devastating. The result against the side that went on to win the trophy shows the African champions could possibly have beaten another opponent and moved further in the competition.   

“The last loss in the World Championship, I definitely believe that it made us stronger; made us believe that we are capable of being head-to-head with the world champions. We believe in ourselves more. We have more confidence in each other. I believe the last game against them got us closer together as a team and gave us a lot of motivation for the Olympic Games,” says Sanad.

On Monday in round 2 of the men’s handball competition at Tokyo 2020, Egypt have the chance to avenge that defeat and take an important step towards the Olympic quarter-finals. A victory against Denmark will put Egypt in a very strong position to not only clinch one of the group’s places in the next stage, but rank at the top of Group B. 

Despite the fact that handball fans have been waiting for this encounter, Sanad says that it is key not to view this match as more important than any other in the Tokyo 2020 preliminary round: 

“We came here to fight and try and reach the furthest point here, hopefully making history, and to do so we need to take it step by step. Every game counts and we are focused on all the games the same – it doesn’t matter which team we’re playing, we will play and give 100% until the end. And whatever the result is we will not have any regrets because we know we gave it our all.” 


Both teams started their Tokyo 2020 campaigns with wins on Saturday: Egypt defeated Portugal 37:31 and Denmark enjoyed a big victory against Japan, 47:30. Now, they look to add their second set of two points.  

“You play against the world champions, so definitely a tough game,” concludes Sanad. “I’m sure it will be an amazing game – 60 minutes of great handball and everyone will be waiting to watch.” 

Norway target first win versus Spain in over two decades

Another top clash to watch out for on day two of the men’s handball competition is that between current back-to-back European champions Spain and 2017 and 2019 World Championship runners-up, as well as EHF EURO 2020 bronze medallists, Norway. The two top sides are expected to deliver a fiery 60 minutes, where the Scandinavian team will be aiming to overthrow Spain for the first time since 1997. 

Opening the day will be two straight matches featuring South American teams hoping for their first victories but taking on tough opponents: Brazil will throw off first against 2021 World Championship semi-finalists France, before Argentina meet Rio 2016 bronze medallists Germany. 

Later in the day, the two teams participating in their first Olympic Games, Bahrain and Portugal, will face each other, with both aiming for their first win. While Portugal lost to Egypt in round 1, Bahrain shocked 2021 World Championship silver medallists Sweden, losing by just one goal with the decision coming down to the final seconds. 

Sweden will hope for a less tense encounter than their opener as they meet Japan in the last match of the day. 

Full schedule for Monday 26 July 
All times local

09:00 Brazil vs France – Group A
11:00 Argentina vs Germany – Group A
14:15 Egypt vs Denmark – Group B
16:15 Spain vs Norway – Group A
19:30 Bahrain vs Portugal – Group B
21:30 Japan vs Sweden – Group B