It was well after 10 p.m. when the 28th Handball World Championship in Stockholm was approaching its final climax. And Niklas Landin also ran forward, more precisely, he went to meet the President of the World Federation IHF, Hassan Moustafa. Because the 78-year-old obviously had problems carrying the almost 20-kilogram World Cup trophy – it consists of pure gold and has sapphires – to the new world champion. So the captain of the Danish handball team took the 70 centimeter trophy from him, which represents a hand holding a golden handball in the air.
The work of art is a gift from the Emir of Qatar, is worth an incredible 800,000 euros and was donated by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani with typical modesty to the 2015 World Cup in his own country. A little piquancy on the side: The handball World Cup is therefore many times more valuable than that of the footballers.
None of that mattered to the 34-year-old Danish national team captain and goalkeeper at the moment, Landin picked up the huge gold nugget and seconds later hoisted it in front of his team-mates. Denmark has won the world championship title for the third time in a row, no other team can claim that. The Scandinavians are a worthy champion of this World Cup in Poland and Sweden: They only lost one point in the entire tournament – in the 32:32 draw against the Croatians in the preliminary round – and were also in the final in the 34:29 triumph against France the better team.
Neither the strains of travel nor the appointment of referees can throw the Danes out of rhythm
Even the fact that Denmark had to travel to Gdansk for their semifinals and back to Stockholm for the final while the French were able to stay put didn’t throw the Scandinavians off course. National coach Alfred Gislason also found this unequally distributed travel strain a nuisance. His team had to travel one day before the quarter-finals and the first placement game against Egypt, which the respective opponent was spared. The IHF wants to take the criticism seriously, but how this is to be implemented at the 2025 World Cup should be interesting. Then there are three hosts in Denmark, Norway and Croatia who, according to experience, also claim important knockout games.
The appointment of referees Gjorgji Nachevski and Slave Nikolov was also criticized by the Danish association. At the beginning of the World Cup, a Danish TV station had a report from the company Sportradar published, which allegedly listed notable matches from 2016 and 2017 – including those refereed by the two North Macedonians nominated for the final. After an examination, the European federation EHF saw no abnormalities and no need for action, which now also applied to the world federation.
Apart from that, the Danes had little reason to complain, because when things got tight again at the beginning of the second half of the final, a few decisions were very favorable for the world champion. Of course, this should not be the reason for the defeat of the Olympic champion, the first reason was the significantly weaker goalkeeper performance.
Because while Vincent Gerard could hardly get hold of a ball, the current world handball player Landin once again showed a performance worthy of this title in the Danish goal. So the Danes were able to quickly score up to five goals (12:7). Nevertheless, the Olympic champion was able to shorten the lead to 15:16 by half-time. The powerful backfield around the two left-handers Dika Mem and Nedim Remili brought the French back into the game.
Ultimately, however, the French defense found no means against the nimble Danish attackers, Mathias Gidsel, who was also the top goal scorer in the World Cup, kept refueling – or Simon Pytlick scored from the back. The most important factor in attack, however, was Rasmus Lauge, who is not actually one of the first guard, but shaped the game with ten goals.
That is the great quality of such top teams, that they are filled twice in all positions – which also applies to the French, by the way. So it didn’t matter that the great old men of world handball couldn’t set any accents in Denmark’s Mikkel Hansen and France’s Nikola Karabatic.
Both teams have nothing to worry about in this respect, Gidsel is 23 years old, Pytlick only 22. France also have a number of top-class youngsters, Elohim Prandi, 24, Thibaud Briet, 23, who had to sit out injured, or Dylan Nahi are mentioned. It is therefore urgent to assume that these two teams can also be expected to be at the top of the table at the upcoming European Championships in Germany.