2010 M20 ECh - Denmark victorious in BratislavaArticle
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After eleven exciting days of competition, the 2010 Men's 20 European Championship came to a fabulous finish in Bratislava.

Denmark takes gold in Bratislava

Denmark is the new European champion. The team of the coach Ole Norgaard underlined the supremacy of the Vikings in this age category after they beat Portugal 30:24 in the final match of Men’s 20 European Championship in Bratislava on Sunday and successfully defended the M20 title of the, two years older, generation from 2008. For the first time in the history the match of M20 European Championship, the match was transmitted live to Eurosport viewers. Both finalists earned its tickets to the final tournament of the World U21 Championships what will take place next year in Greece.

Gold medal match: Portugal – Denmark 24:30 (11:14)

Portugal suffered the very first defeat of the tournament when it hurt most. But their start to the match was terrible after dropping back 0:3 and 3:6. Denmark refused to slow it down and forged ahead to a 12:6 lead, forcing Rolando Freitas to lay the green "T" on the delegate table. After a short time-out, Portugal found some holes in until-then impenetrable Danish defence and pulled back to a three-goal deficit.

In the second half, Portugal indicated that they might not be out of the hunt for gold and after three minutes they clawed back just to one-goal difference. However they couldn’t complete the overturn as the Danish remained clearheaded and extended their lead to 24:18. Even the Portuguese time-out failed to bring a miraculous change and the Scandinavians could virtually start the celebrations five minutes before the end. For the second time within twelve months Portugal lost in the final, last year they were defeated in the gold medal match of Men’s 19 European Open in Sweden.

Ole Norgaard, the head coach of Denmark: "We had a great start and Portugal was struggling at the beginning. I reckon our team spirit was decisive. We played seven matches in eleven days and we were very, very tired. Our experience from previous final matches might have helped us as well. We entered this tournament with a target to qualify for the main round. This event had an incredibly high level, I have been taking part of Younger Age Category tournaments since 2002 and I haven’t seen so many even teams."

Rasmus Lauge Schmidt, Team Denmark: "It was a tough match and we had expected that. We knew Portugal plays very clever and fast handball, but our defence worked very well and we could use our counterattacks. We aimed to finish high but I didn’t expect we could go to the finals. Already the semi-final against Germany was a very difficult one. Now I am just excited by getting home and enjoy some time with my family and friends."

Rolando Freitas, the coach of Portugal: "We aspired to win this match. We fell out of the rhythm before the match, I think. Our play was static and without any movement and we failed to convert clear chances. This was a great advantage for Denmark. It is really hard to come back against such a strong opponent like they are. Even though we managed to do it, but after that the Danish goalkeeper started to show a fantastic performance. We made mistakes when shooting. We tried to change players and also the defensive strategy. But today was not our day. This generation of our players managed to beat Denmark twice; we drew once and lost twice and it tells something about the power of our team. Anyway, this was an excellent championship for Portugal. It is the best achievement in our handball history. In addition one our player joined the All Star Team, it is amazing. I have nice feelings from this European Championship. We all will remember Bratislava forever."

Bronze medal match: Slovenia - Germany 30:25 (25:25, 11:15)

As the dream of a gold medal slipped through their fingers, Germany tried to redeem itself in Bratislava, hoping to return home with a medal even if it was bronze. In the thrilling match German players went scoreless in the 10 minutes of the extra-time. After being defeated by Slovenia (30:25) in the bronze match, Germany walked away empty handed.

After the unlucky semi-final, the team of Germany had to forget about their golden dreams. The great disappointment didn’t influence their performance in the match for the bronze medals and they quickly built up three-goal lead. Team Slovenia seemed to be confused and uncoordinated and scored the first goal only after eight minutes of play. Somehow they managed to climb back to 5:5, but Germans swiftly responded with another three-goal lead. Despite playing shorthanded for a major part of the first period they kept their opponents back. Slovenia lost Žiga Mlakar because of injury late in the first half and trailed by five goals after the break, but the return of their sharpshooter back on the field later in the second period inspired the whole team to rally again. They evened the score seven minutes before the end (23:23). In the breathtaking final minute with Germany leading by one goal, Mlakar equalised again (25:25) and forced the second Slovenian extra-time in a row. This time Slovenia avoided the same mistakes as against Portugal in the semi-final and thanks to great saves of Emir Taletovič and another goals by Mlakar, the medal belonged to Slovenia.

Slavko Ivezič, the coach of Slovenia: “We played very well as a team and we showed an optimal performance. We knew, we could play a close match with anybody here at the tournament and we were able to beat any team. Germany has a very strong team; they have a great defence and physically strong players. After not very convincing start our effort in the second half was absolutely flawless. We found a way how to defend the most dangerous German shooters. We kept telling our boys they had the power and skills to turn it over and they let their hearts on the court. The bronze medal is great news and we still have a potential for the future. The third place is a fantastic achievement for our small country. In the semi-final against Portugal we lost the fortune, but today we were the luckier ones. But you have to deserve it with your hard work. This tournament was extremely close and it could have ended with a totally different three medal holders very easily."

Gašper Marguc, the best player of Slovenia: "We started badly. The German defence was too good and we produced too many mistakes in the attack. They took advantage of it and scored many easy goals. Finally we woke up in the second half and our goalkeeper started to shine. This time we scored more easy goals and Germans got panicked. The extra-time was excellent and since we didn’t allow a single goal, we deserved to win."

Martin Heuberger, the coach of Germany: "We played in a good pace during the first forty minutes, but I am not going to say one word about the rest of the match."

Final Rankings:


1. DEN  2. POR  3. SLO   4. GER
 5. SWE  6. FRA 7. ESP   8. ISL
 9. RUS  10. SRB  11. CRO  12. SVK
 13. ROU 14. CZE   15. FIN  16. ISR



All Star Team

Best goalkeeper: Jonas Hansen (DEN)

Best left wing: Max Schubert (GER)

Best left back: Olafur Gudmundsson (ISL)

Best central back: Rasmus Lauge Schmidt (DEN)

Best line-player (pivot): Hendrik Pekeler (GER)

Best right back: Joao Ferraz (POR)

Best right wing: Gašper Marguc (SLO)

Best defensive player: Mitja Nosan (SLO)

Most valuable player (MVP): Kentin Mahe (FRA)

Best scorers: Kentin Mahe (FRA) and Gašper Marguc (SLO) 49 goals

TEXT: Vladislav Brindžák