Co-hosts Denmark sweat, but seal crucial win in opener against Serbia

01 Dec. 2023

Co-hosts Denmark sweat, but seal crucial win in opener against Serbia

Taking the lead for the first time in the 54th minute, Denmark finished off the match against Serbia in dominating fashion, but plenty of questions will need to be answered after their hard-fought 25:21 win, in the co-hosts’ opener in Herning.

Denmark vs Serbia 25:21 (10:12)

Nerves are difficult to control, even if you are Denmark, when you have 12,000 people rooting for you, in the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship opener. Branded as one of the red-hot favourites to win the title, Jesper Jensen’s side felt the pressure right from the get go and, for the first 30 minutes, they never took the lead once against a brave young Serbia side.

The big underdog here, Serbia delivered an excellent performance, slowing down the tempo and dictated the rhythm in the first 30 minutes, shocking the audience by taking a 3:0 lead, with Denmark left stunned by their opponent’s defence, expertly prepared by coach Uros Bregar.

As Althea Reinhardt slowly started saving more shots – she finished the first half with four saves and a 27% saving efficiency – Denmark eased back into the match and tied the score for the first time in the 22nd minute, 9:9. Yet the Scandinavian side, much to the shock of their fans, scored only once in the next eight minutes, as their attacking efficiency fell to 53%.

Serbia’s efficiency was not much better, but Denmark looked to lack the urgency and the proper grit to grind out a win, as they were down two goals at the break, 10:12, with an upset on the cards, were nothing was to change in the last 30 minutes, especially as Denmark needed a better contribution from their back line, who scored only three goals from 10 shots in the first half.

Denmark did tie the game fast in the start of the second half, 14:14, but missed three consecutive chances to go ahead, as their attack did not provide the needed goods, especially hampered by an outstanding Serbia defence, the big surprise of the match.

That translated into more added pressure on Denmark, as the co-hosts were down two goals, 16:18, with 14 minutes to go, with a team time-out called in that moment by coach Jesper Jensen to try and sort out things, mainly in attack, where Denmark had shot only 28 times until that moment.

With a new-found momentum and a change in defence, where Jensen instructed his players to switch from 6-0 to a more aggressive 5-1, Denmark tied the game, 19:19, and went ahead for the first time after 54 minutes, with their top player, Kristina Jorgensen, scoring four goals in Denmark’s 6:2 run, which opened the gap, 22:20.

Jorgensen was also helped by some excellently timed saves from Sandra Toft, who finished the match with a 36% saving efficiency, as Denmark ended the match on a 9:3 run, to eventually seal their maiden two points at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023, albeit in way harder conditions than they might have expected to.

The 25:21 win for Denmark was duly celebrated in the packed Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, but the Scandinavian powerhouse will have something to think about, after they showed their weaknesses in this match.

The next game against Chile will likely see Denmark progress to the main round, while Serbia aim to secure their maiden win on Sunday, when they face neighbours Romania.

hummel Player of the Match: Emma Friis (Denmark)