I predicted a close one, I was wrong. There aren’t many in Barcelona tonight who will care.
In the most one-sided final in the history of the competition, Spain were the winners in front of an ecstatic home crowd. The most significant damage was done in the second quarter as a one-goal match turned into a 18:10 lead for Spain over the suprisingly underwhelming Danes. Joan Canellas top-scored for the Spanish with 7 and he and his fellow attackers were backed up by a stingy defence and some excellent goalkeeping.
20,000 saw the match in the hall – no doubt a few million more across Spain saw it on TV. It’s the biggest story on the El Pais site right now. The boost that Spanish handball maybe needed. The Danes may be sore but they can look forward to next year and being Euro 2014 hosts.
For now, though, the glory is all Spain’s.
Seven unanswered goals in the first ten minutes of the second half turned what had been a fairly even and compelling match between beaten semi-finalists Croatia and Slovenia into a one-sided stroll. Croatia took it from 14:14 to 21:14 before eventually taking the match 31:26. Domagoj Duvnjak again top-scored for the Croats, this time with 9 goals.
2013 World Championship Final
Spain v Denmark
4.15pm (UK), Sunday 27 January, Palau Saint Jordi
Live on Premier Sports (Sky Channel 428 – free) and on bet365.com live streaming
So, here we are then. The European Champions against the hosts in a battle for the world title. Spanish handball had so much riding on its first ever hosting of the World Championship. Despite the strength of the top teams in the Asobal the rest of the league hasn’t had such an easy ride and there were fears that the public’s attention may be wandering … Hopefully a sell out of 16,500 in Barcelona and a clear shot on a Sunday afternoon should go some way to reminding the good people of Spain of the great game they have in their midst. And, hopefully as well, they will get to see a classic final regardless of who emerges triumphant.
Denmark came so close two years ago. France defeated them in extra time. But, since then, they’ve had experience in winning despite a passionate home crowd urging them to defeat – their taking of the Euro 2012 crown came against the hometown Serbs and their deafening support. Perhaps significantly (though perhaps not) Denmark beat Spain in the semi finals in Serbia – and whilst their matches have always been close (the average difference is under 2 goals) it is Denmark who have won six of their last seven meetings.
None of those matches were in Spain in a home World Championship though.
Spain have clearly relished the crowd. In their match against Serbia, for example, it seemed to be the extra man forcing opposition fumbles and propelling fastbreaks in response. When they fell behind against Germany it’s hard to see how their momentum back into the game could have been maintained without the surging insanity of the home support. Things might have been more straightforward against Slovenia but then the Slovenes can’t have enjoyed that every moment that something didn’t go their way the crowd reacted as if someone had given the title to Spain. For all the Spain are a strong side without the added extra the home advantage brings it would be hard to predict a victory for them.
Spain have scored the second most goals in the tournament: 245 in 8 matches. Want to guess which team beats them and has a significantly better scoring percentage in doing so? In Albert Rocas and Victor Tomas, Spain have two great counter-attack shooters and 7m takers. On the other hand, Denmark have Anders Eggert who has 23/24 from the penalty line. Both teams move the ball nicely to the wing when needed but have a good variety of attacking options – but maybe Denmark have the upper hand in being able to call on Mikkel Hansen to impose himself when needed. His tournament has been a bit underwhelming so far by his talismanic standards – Spain will hope it remains that way.
In defence, again, they are similar but you’d have to give Denmark the edge. Spain have a save percentage of 34%; Denmark 37%. The stat that could be significant in a match where turnovers and pounces on mistakes could be critical is that Denmark have done a much better job at preventing opposition fastbreaks turning into goals. Against Croatia, as well, it was noticeable that Denmark were able to (fairly) physically impose themselves into a game to prevent attacks spreading; Spain failed that test against Croatia and it resulted in their only defeat in the tournament. They’ve not faced a similar team since but Denmark will need to be stopped somehow.
So, there will be goals. Lots of goals. Spain will be hoping for more and more because if the game is high scoring it’ll mean the Danish defensive strengths aren’t working and we’ll be in a shooting match that either team could win. A tighter or more controlled game – one that silences the crowd for stretches – and you’d have to back Denmark.
But, honestly, this could go either way.
What the bookies say: Too close to call for the end of 60 minutes result; Denmark marginal favourites overall
What Handball Views says:
Denmark. Spain. Denmark. Spain.
Bless the good people at Premier Sports. The World Championship Final between Spain and Denmark will be live from 4.05pm (match starts 4.15pm) on Sunday 27 January on Sky Channel 428. Free to anyone as well as they’re having a freeview weekend.
Spain always had the edge over Slovenia and Denmark pulled away early from Croatia. The full times are:
Spain 26:22 Slovenia
Denmark 30:24 Croatia
So, the 3/4 play off is tomorrow and the final on Sunday.
So it’s come to this. The final Friday of the World Championship and four teams remain to chase the ultimate prize. France have gone home, licking their wounds and looking to rebuild after a decade of domination. They’re joined by others who maybe thought they might stand a chance: bye bye Germany and Russia. Of the four who remain you could probably have picked Spain and Denmark beforehand but look at the Balkan duo of Croatia and Slovenia. They’ve both gone through by winning every game and they’re kept apart again today. This could be a day of glory or heartbreak for the former bits of Yugoslavia. (As ever: if you’re in the UK there is no TV coverage. You’ll need to subscribe at http://www.livehandball.tv or have money in a Bet365 account and access their livestreaming).
6.15pm (UK) Spain v Slovenia
These two sides have met four times competitively and Spain have won all four with an average margin of victory of 8 points. History clearly counts for nothing here though. Slovenia are nicely solid at the back and do things in a smart way when they move forward. They’re also not dependent on one player displaying effective rotation throughout matches. They don’t seem to cop too many penalties either. So whilst they’re not the most thrilling team you’ll ever see they will be hard to beat as their resolve throughout the match against Russia showed. Spain, on the other hand, are all about dynamism. Get the home crowd cheering, pounce on the fastbreaks and defend robustly when necessary. Spain had to come from behind against Germany but ended the match looking like champions. Despite the Slovenians’ undoubted ability and strengths it will feel like a surprise if Spain don’t qualify for the final today.
The bookies say: Spain by 4; Handball Views says: Closer than that but a Spain win
8.30pm Denmark v Croatia
Croatia set their stall out within a minute against France: Drago Vukovic getting a red card for a decapitation. They ‘kept France honest’ throughout the match from that point on. Some solid goalkeeping at the start from Alilovic helped Croatia establish a lead and then, even though the French defence began to restrict Croatia to distance shots, the defence was strong enough to keep them ahead. Nine goals from Domagoj Duvnjak also helped. Croatia will need the same strength and ‘grit’ again today. Denmark are frighteningly good when they click but prone to losing their concentration. They managed to turn a comfortable lead over Hungary in the quarter final into a match requiring a decisive throw from Henrik Møllgaard to douse a Hungarian revival. There’s no doubting their chops, just their focus. History is no guide: 15 meetings this decade and it’s as even a split as possible. This could be very interesting.
The bookies say: Denmark by 1; Handball Views says: Croatia, just.
The final will be on Sunday; losers get to play again for bronze tomorrow.
Drama aplenty today … here’s how the matches ended:
Russia 27:28 Slovenia
Spain 28:24 Germany
Denmark 28:26 Hungary
France 23:30 Croatia
The semi finals are:
Slovenia v Spain
Denmark v Croatia
and they will both be played in Barcelona on 25 January.