It was the hoped-for conciliatory conclusion of the European Handball Championships in Hungary and Slovakia, because at least on the final day the focus was on sport. With the last throw, Niclas Ekberg hit a seven-meter penalty to make it 27:26 and won the fifth title with Sweden. The Scandinavians last managed this 20 years ago. Defending champions Spain, who also triumphed in 2020, missed out on their third European title in a row in a highly dramatic game.
Both the Swedes and the Spanish selection were able to go onto the floor of the MVM Dome in Budapest with almost the best cast, the corona virus had only forced one player into isolation in Spaniard Ferran Sole. Coach Jordi Ribera was able to provide an equivalent replacement on the right wing in Aleix Gomez, who was voted the best player of the tournament in his position and, together with pivot Adrian Figueras, was the best scorer for the Spaniards with six goals each.
First the Swedes submit, then the Spaniards. Sweden’s goalkeeper Andreas Palicka was there again in the closing stages
But the Swedes were a bit better, with the expected protagonists playing in the foreground right from the start of the game. Director Jim Gottfridsson, recently voted the most valuable player of the tournament, hammered the ball into the net with a powerful slap shot to make it 1-0 and in return goalkeeper Andreas Palicka made the first of his many subsequent saves. Sweden dominated the early stages, leading most of the time, but the Spaniards couldn’t be shaken off. Coach Ribera aligned the defensive more offensively, goalkeeper Rodrigo Coralles, who surprisingly got the preference over Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, who held so brilliantly in the semi-finals, became more and more secure – and saved two seven meters, among other things.
At the break, the Iberians, led by their experienced strategist Joan Canellas, who kept finding free teammates, were 13:12 in the lead. After the change, the picture was reversed: the Spaniards were mostly just in the lead, the Swedes stayed on, mainly thanks to circle player Oscar Bergendahl and seven-meter shooter Ekberg, both of whom scored five times. And in the nerve-wracking final phase, they benefited from a few inattentions on the part of the opponent.
The game for third place had previously been won by world champion Denmark against Olympic champion France with 35:32 (29:29, 13:14) after extra time, the best thrower was the outstanding backcourt player Jacob Holm from Füchsen Berlin with ten goals. The Danes had to do without playmaker and goalscorer Mikkel Hansen, who injured himself in the 25:29 semi-final defeat by Spain. The best French thrower was Kentin Mahe with eight goals, who was well recovered from his corona infection. In a fast-paced and also high-class game, which the French had dominated for a long time, the two goalkeepers Vincent Gerard and Niklas Landin shaped the game with their performances – and thus confirmed the trend that continued in the final.
In the end, the teams with the best defenses and the best goalkeepers came out on top.