Summary: Iceland, Netherlands and Denmark triumphant
The main round continues on Saturday in Budapest with three group I matches and a chance for France and Denmark to extend their winning streaks.
- the Netherlands take their first-ever main round win, beating Montenegro 34:30
- Iceland stun France with a 29:21 victory
- Denmark stay unbeaten with 27:25 win over Croatia
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- listen to the official EHF EURO podcast from the (Un)informed Handball Hour
- find out how to watch the tournament wherever you are
Our coverage is ending tonight. We can't wait for group II again tomorrow night - the EHF EURO 2022 is really hotting up! Check in again tomorrow from 10:00 CET for yet more coverage from the tournament.
It has been a hell of a 24 hours for me as this time yesterday morning I was at my workplace, not knowing what was ahead. Then the coach called me, and I had to arrange and drop everything to get here and follow my dream.
So with those three absolutely barn-storming matches over, the group I rankings remain very much open. Denmark are in the strongest position with six points, France and Iceland both have four points, Montenegro and the Netherlands two, and Croatia have no points. But hope isn't over for the Croats, as they should fancy their chances against Iceland and the Netherlands coming up. And they've shown in the past they will fight all the way if they have to.
22:00 | FULL-TIME
DENMARK 27:25 CROATIA
Croatia did not make that easy for Denmark, but the world champions managed to clinch a narrow two-goal win. Mikkel Hansen, with eight goals, is named Grundfos Player of the Match after perhaps one of his most dominant showings at this tournament so far.
A penalty shot, Ivan Cupic's third goal of the game, puts him level with Kiril Lazarov and Jan Filip in the all-time goalscorer standings with 182 EHF EURO goals in his career.
Mikkel Hansen is four goals away from 250 now, having scored eight tonight.
Denmark's turn for a timeout. Mikkel Hansen is talking intensely with coach Nicolaj Jacobsen as the huddle forms.
Mathias Gidsel makes no mistakes in scoring as play resumes, a lovely soaring shot down the centre.
As a wave goes around the arena, Hrvoje Horvat calls a timeout. Croatia are playing well but Denmark a bit better and it's 23:30, eight minutes to play.
Denmark hang on to a two or three-goal lead, but they're far from being secure yet as we come close to the final quarter.
Six minutes into the half and Denmark are a bit more in control - they have a 17:14 lead.
21:08 | HALF-TIME
DENMARK 12:11 CROATIA
The excitement in Budapest isn't stopping in what has turned into an intense battle. Denmark at first seemed to be moving out to extend their lead, but Croatia got stuck in and fought back. It looks likely to stay that way in the second half.
Here's EHF journalist Kevin Domas' assessment of the match so far.
Taking only 12 goals in a half when you are playing against Denmark is a true performance, and this is what Croatia have achieved so far. They are showing a completely different face compared to what we saw in their previous game against Montenegro, aggressive defensively and precise in attack. The key for them will be to keep the pace as slow as possible and to keep on defending tightly.
Croatia have equalised, by constantly putting the pressure on Denmark. The crowd are going wild with every save and shot and action by the Cowboys, and booing Denmark mercilessly when they're in possession - although the Danish fans are cheering pretty loudly.
It's all about the youngsters right now. Tin Lucin (aged 23) has scored four times for Croatia. Mathias Gidsel (22) and Emil Jakobsen (23) lead the scoring for Denmark, with three each. Croatian debutant Mateo Maraš, at 21, has also netted.
Of course Luka Cindric, Mikkel Hansen and Rasmus Lauge are also making their presence felt, but the new kids on the block are definitely showing what they're made of.
Croatia have just switched goalkeepers, from debutant Kristian Pilipovic to Mirko Ailovic, and Ailovic has made his first save. He needs to stop some more shots too as Denmark now have an 8:4 advantage, into the second quarter.
At the other end of the court Niklas Landin is playing his 45th EHF EURO match and his experience is showing.
Ten minutes in and Croatia have picked up two two-minute suspensions for their aggressive defending, with Mikkel Hansen and Mathias Gidsel particular focuses. Luka Cindric picked up the second after practically throwing himself at Gidsel, with both of them ending up on the court. Denmark lead 5:3.
Mathias Gidsel scores a lovely goal to put Denmark 3:1 up. There have been a few scrappy moments so far, and a couple of superb Niklas Landin saves.
With some enthusiastic singing of both national anthems, we're about ready to throw off for the last time tonight in Budapest.
There are plenty of Croatians here. We've already seen two teams who came into today as underdogs win, so will they be a third?
Take a deep breath. We've still got one match to go.
Denmark play Croatia with the opportunity to go top of the table. But a win for Croatia would leave us with four teams level with two points, and two matches still to go. Exciting stuff ...
- Croatia right wing Ivan Cupic joined the top 10 of all-time EHF EURO scorers in their main round opener, with a tally of 179 now. He needs just three more goals to equal Macedonian Kiril Lazarov and Czech Republic’s Jan Filip so looks set to climb higher
- goalkeeper Kevin Møller and right back Mathias Gidsel were the key standouts for Denmark against Iceland. Møller made 14 saves at 52 per cent while Gidsel scored nine goals from 10 attempts and made 10 assists
19:32 | FULL-TIME
FRANCE 21:29 ICELAND
That was France's biggest-ever EHF EURO loss, in their 100th match. Probably not the way they wanted to celebrate the milestone. It's also the first time Iceland have beaten France at an EHF EURO, and their biggest victory against them for 15 years.
Viktor Hallgrímsson is named Grundfos Player of the Match after making 15 saves - 44 per cent. Ómar Ingi Magnusson added 10 goals and is now joint third on the top scorer list.
Wow. Group I is suddenly wide-open.
Viktor Hallgrímsson is 21 years old and he's thrown off that poor performance on Thursday to deliver in style today. France have six goals to make up and just four minutes to do it. They're trying different defensive formations now, but it surely isn't enough in the time left.
The players are showing their frustration at every mistake and lost ball. Play is halted as Elvar Ásgeirsson loses his shoe after slipping. After Iceland led by nine, France brought it back to seven but just eight minutes remain.
A whopping 95 per cent of people playing our match predictor game had France to win this - 1 per cent predicted a draw, and 4 per cent thought Iceland could win. Right now, they have a mountain to climb as they trail 16:24.
After 10 minutes, the gap remains seven goals. It seems to be taking Iceland a little longer to score as France have stepped up their defence, but they are scoring and France haven't found consistent momentum.
France score the first goal in the second half after a slightly messy restart, in which Iceland couldn't break through the French defence. Wesley Pardin, now in goal, saves; Elliði Viðarsson steals and shoots, but badly, and it's an easy save for Pardin. Romain Lagarde nets quickly at the other end.
There's a good atmosphere developing here, with fans from all over Europe enjoying some great handball. The Croatian fans are lending their voice to the shouts of 'Island' - a win for Iceland here would bolster the Cowboys' chances.
18:38 | FULL-TIME
FRANCE 10:17 ICELAND
Well, it's safe to say nobody expected this. Iceland are missing most of their most-experienced players, but the rest have stepped up to deliver a magnificent team performance and the Olympic champions are not managing to find solutions to what Iceland have brought. In the second half, Iceland's lack of depth might start to show - do their 14 men have the endurance to keep this up?
Iceland’s defence supported by a great game from Viktor Hallgrímsson has caused significant frustration for France. Under pressure to step into the number one role in the absence of Björgvin Pall Gustavsson, 21-year-old Hallgrimsson struggled against Denmark in the main round opener but has certainly found his feet today, with nine saves so far. But will Iceland’s half-time cushion be enough? Seems it should be, but the big challenge for the Nordic side will be dealing with France’s depth in the second half.
Vincent Gerard is getting into the groove and beginning to stop the Icelandic shots. France have clawed back a goal, but Iceland still hold a four-goal lead.
20-year-old Théo Monar, brought in as a replacement for Karl Konan who has Covid-19, has scored his first EHF EURO goal. Keep an eye out for this 200cm-tall line player - he's a star in the making.
It's all going Iceland's way at the moment. They lead 9:5 and are playing fast handball. Even when Vincent Gerard makes a huge save, the ball is fumbled and regained by Elliði Viðarsson, with Viggo Kristjánsson then netting.
Erick Mathe, on coach duty, calls his first timeout.
After 10 minutes Iceland have a 6:5 lead. Viktor Hallgrímsson is having a good day with some key saves already - which will buoy their spirits.
On Thursday night Iceland's president, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, came to support the team. Here he is with EHF president Michael Wiederer (they put their masks back on straight afterwards of course).
Here's a random handball fact: former Iceland player Patrekur Jóhannesson is the president's brother.
The match has begun.
Covid aside, tonight's match has a couple of notable features:
- three goals against the Netherlands brought Nikola Karabatic’s overall EHF EURO tally to 270. He now sits 18 goals behind the top scorer of all time in the competition — a player from none other than Iceland: Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson
- this clash will be France’s 100th at the Men’s EHF EURO. Their overall record stands at 63 wins, nine draws and 27 losses — plus five medals
- the teams have a long mutual history, which has seen 12 victories for France, six for Iceland and three draws. Of the four EHF EURO encounters, France won two and two ended in draws
France play Iceland next, and there are a few player updates.
France are missing Kentin Mahe, who tested positive for Covid-19, and Ludovic Fabregas, who tested negative but reportedly has some symptoms. Like the Netherlands, they also miss their head coach today with Guillaume Gille having tested positive yesterday.
Iceland are still missing goalkeeper Björgvin Pall Gustavsson, plus Aron Palmarsson and Bjarki Mar Elisson - and announced that Arnar Freyr Arnarsson and Janus Dadi Smarason have joined the list of positive cases.
It must be said that for France this is far less of an issue than it is for Iceland - they are still able to field 16 players today, packed with names like Nikola Karabatic, Vincent Gerard, Dika Mem and Valentin Porte. Iceland's squad of 14 is rather less experienced.
17:06 | FULL-TIME
MONTENEGRO 30:34 NETHERLANDS
Once they'd established their lead, the Dutch never let it go. They hung on against a determined and powerful Montenegrin defence, and their own defence was helped by an immense showing from Grundfos Player of the Match Thijs van Leeuwen who ended the game with 14 saves for 42 per cent.
Into the last three minutes, and the Netherlands lead by four goals. This is a magnificent performance from a depleted team playing without their coach - against another gutsy team who started the tournament without their coach.
A whopping 12 saves for Thijs van Leeuwen and the Dutch lead by four. Van Leeuwen has only limited international experience, but has stepped up magnificently in the absence of Bart Ravensbergen.
Milos Vujovic falls hard and lies on the court for a short while before being helped up - he seems okay, but is on the bench for a bit.
Just as Milos Bozovic comes to the end of a two-minute suspension, Thijs van Leeuwen saves and Jasper Adams scores an immense long-range shot into the empty Montenegrin goal off the rebound. The Dutch have regained a three-goal buffer.
Montenegro have stepped up their defence - they've conceded another penalty in the process, but defensively they are more effective than the Netherlands. It's 23:24.
Nebojsa Simic just gets his hand on a Dani Baijens shot, and protests the decision to award the goal. After a swift video replay it is confirmed, and the Netherlands lead by three early in the second half.
16:10 | HALF-TIME
MONTENEGRO 16:18 NETHERLANDS
To start with Montenegro looked the more aggressive, effective side, but once the Netherlands got into their groove they found themselves able to regain the lost ground and then take the advantage. Montenegro have conceded three penalties, all scored by Kay Smits, and will need to be more disciplined in the second half. Kevin Domas has more.
Erlingur Richardsson, the Netherlands' coach, might be absent today, but this has so far been quite unnoticed. The Dutch players have been able to find solutions by themselves, strengthening their defence to score plenty of easy goals. In the end, after being four down, they are now two goals up and have an opportunity to take their first points in the main round.
Now the Dutch have the momentum, and have a 15:13 lead. Zoran Roganovic calls a timeout and Montenegro are able to pull one back, but they're on the back foot.
Both sides are making errors, and Montenegro's allowed the Netherlands to equalise at 11:11. However as Stefan Cavor makes it 12:11, Luc Steins received his second suspension. He'll have to be careful now in defence. One thing's for sure, the Dutch can't afford to lose him.
The Netherlands are hanging in there. Thijs van Leeuwen is now in the Dutch goal and has just made his first save - it's 10:8 halfway through the first half.
The scoreline has been largely level but Montenegro have just gone ahead 6:4. Montenegro are scoring more easily than their opponents, and Nebojsa Simic has made several saves while René de Knegt is yet to stop a shot.
René de Knegt is the first of the two new Dutch goalkeepers to play. While many of the Dutch team, as Dani Baijens told us earlier today, are below average handball height, de Knegt stands at a lofty 193cm tall and his head is close to the top crossbar.
We're underway, and Montenegro start strong with a Nebojsa Simic save and a Branko Vujovic goal.
As we prepare for throw-off, a couple of key facts about the upcoming game:
- the match pits two of the top scorers of the EHF EURO 2022 against each other. The Netherlands’ Kay Smits leads the individual race with 36 goals, while Montenegro’s Branko Vujovic has scored 27 and sits fifth overall, but clearly top in the category of field goals only
- their only two previous duels were back in 2007 in the EHF EURO 2008 qualifiers on the path to Montenegro’s first ever participation. Montenegro won at home and the other game was a draw
The Netherlands have a tough ask this afternoon as head coach Erlingur Richardsson is isolating with mild coronavirus symptoms, alongside goalkeeper coach Gerrie Eijlers. The Dutch tweeted that Richardsson tested positive this morning, followed by a negative test on a rapid PCR, but is isolating out of caution.
Maybe the news will provide extra motivation for the team in what is undoubtedly going to be a challenging match.
Yesterday we caught up with Nebojsa Simic to talk about the Montenegrin goalkeeper's tips for celebrating a good save. Hopefully, there'll be plenty more of this when they throw off against the Netherlands at 15:30.
Warm-up is underway - some of the Montenegrin team are chatting and throwing a few balls. Simic himself is sitting thoughtfully on the bench, and the Dutch have just returned to the court after a few of them pre-warmed up earlier
Goalkeeper Kristian Pilipovic will make his debut for the Croatian national team today - the second day he is eligible. Pilipovic was born in Croatia, but began his career at Fivers in Vienna and represented Austria at both EHF EURO 2018 and the World Championship 2019. He has now switched affiliations to Croatia and is one of three goalkeepers now available to Croatia for today's match.
Last look-back to yesterday before we take a break and resume coverage at about 14:30 CET from the Budapest arena. It's our top five goals, headed by Poland's Kamil Syprzak.
Before lunch, take a look at yesterday's top five saves. Tobias Thulin took on the mantle from Andreas Palicka for Sweden and was amazing in their game against Russia, but the other goalkeepers were also on form last night.
We have a great guest on today's official (Un)informed Handball Hour podcast - Montenegro's charismatic goalkeeper Nebojsa Simic, who is setting the tournament alight with his great saves and great celebrations. Perfect listening before tonight's games!
We have a giveaway running on Facebook today. All you need to do is head over there (click on the post below), like the post and tag two friends, and five winners will be drawn by midnight tonight. Easy.
Our features today focus on the first match.
For Montenegro, Kevin Domas has spoken to Vuk Lazovic about his wide experience in handball. Unusually, Lazovic has spent several years playing in Asia - despite his Slovenian wife Barbara playing for DELO EHF Champions League side CSM Bucuresti - and he tells us how the experience has made him a better player.
Meanwhile, Dutch back Dani Baijens reveals the secrets behind the Netherlands' success and how they have shown the world that you don't need to be huge to be a good handball player.
There were three Players of the Match named last night - Dmitry Zhitnikov for Russia, Tobias Thulin for Sweden, and Erik Toft for Norway. Here are their highlights.
A couple of bits of squad news to start the day off.
France have called up wing Mathieu Grebille to bolster their squad. Grebille hasn't played a major tournament since EHF EURO 2020, as he missed both the IHF Men's World Championship 2021 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but brings plenty of experience.
Also on the left wing, Dutch player Rutger ten Velde has tested positive and will miss tonight's match with Montenegro. The Netherlands are also bringing in another goalkeeper, Thijs van Leeuwen, as both their first and second choices - Bart Ravensbergen and Robin Schoenaker - are isolating. The 34-year-old van Leeuwen plays for Sporting Pelt in Belgium.
With main round group II still wide open, there is a chance tonight for Denmark and France to put pressure on the other teams in group I on Saturday.
But the day starts with an exciting clash between the surprise packages of the tournament, Montenegro and the Netherlands. The Dutch are missing their superb goalkeeper through Covid, while Montenegro's Nebojsa Simic has been brilliant - will that make the difference? Later, France play Iceland, and Denmark vs Croatia will conclude the action.
Check out the day's preview.