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Sweden through to the main round with 4 points

Photo credit: Aniko Kovacs - IHF

In a very intense match, Sweden defeated Hungary 33-30 last night and left Copenhagen as group leaders. The coached by Kristján Andresson are already in Herning with four points. Jim Gottfridsson who suffered an injury on his right leg and left the court with 15 minutes left to be played has left to Flensburg and will very likely miss the rest of the tournament.

It was the toughest of clashes in the Royal Arena in Copenhagen and fans set the tone. Just like the entire week, hordes of Swedish supporters packed the stadium, while a large group of Hungarian fans also made themselves heard. The match did not disappoint. It was a tight start and the coached by Csonkyai and Matic were the first to take the lead, after 10’ they were 3-6 ahead on the scoreboard with a good start from Ricard Bodo and Dominik Mathe.

As minutes went by, Sweden were able to catch up thanks to good appearances from Mikael Appelgren under the posts (finished the first half with 42% of saves, 10/24) and the patience on the attacks. It was on the 22nd minute when the Royal Arena exploded in a big roar as Lukas Nilsson established the equalizer for the Scandinavians, it was 11-11. A remarkable performance from Mate Lekai and Mathe kept Hungary in the game, however, Sweden took the lead 15-13 through goals by Andreas Nilsson, Niclas Eckberg and Kim Andersson. Peter Hornyak and Bendeguz Boka netted on the last minute to tie the match (15-15), but Jim Gottfridsson had the last saying and shot to goal to put his team ahead right before the buzzer (16-15).

Until the 8th minute of the second half, the match was head to head (20-20), but Sweden were able to take a two goal advantage (22-20) and continued to lead, with a good appearance of Lukas Nilsson, who scored 6 of his 7 goals of the match on the second half. At the 15th minute, after a play in which Mattias Zachrisson scored his second consecutive goal to establish the 27-24 and the first three goal difference for the dressed in blue and grey, Jim Gottfridsson fell to the floor in clear sign of pain. Flensburg’s playmaker suffered an injury in the calf and was helped out of the court.

Tension dominated the Royal Arena and after trailing most of the second half, Hungary tied through Laszlo Nagy (29-29) with 7 minutes left to be played. Lukas Nilsson scored for 30-29, then in a messy play Hampus Wanne ran the fast break and stretched the difference to +2 at 27’. Save by Andreas Palicka, who had replaced Appelgren on the last minutes, and a new goal by Nilsson set a three goal difference with a little bit more than a minute left, and for the happiness of the Swedish supporters in the hall. Time was only enough for two more goals, a standing shot from Lekai and the final goal from Albin Lagergren to set the final 33-30.

Marton Szekely, who played most of the match defending the Hungarian goal, looked out of words in the mixed zone, as his team was really close to take the two points in the end: “I’m so confused right now, because we really could’ve won, we wanted to get at least a draw. But a -3-goal result is good because the difference with Egypt was the same. So, I hope for the main round we’ll be equal. Of course, for us going to the main round is good, we want to be among the best 7 (for the Olympic qualification tournaments), so I think we succeeded in that matter. But it’s going to be very hard for us now, there will be three tough matches with so many injured players, so I hope we will fight and to get at least two points”.

Mikael Appelgren, one of Sweden’s highest points during the first half of this match, expressed his happiness after a tough encounter as well.

HP: You will now go to the main round with 4 points, was that one of the goals before the beginning of the tournament on such a tough group?

 MA: “Of course, we had 5 games in 7 days, it’s always hard to play so many games but our goal was to take 4 points with us to the main round. We had two hard last games against Qatar and Hungary, but we’re taking the points with us and we’re happy about that”.

 HP: As you said it was a tough match, what do you think made the difference for you today? You were losing it at one point, so what made you lift your spirit in those final moments?

MA: “I think the spectators here were fantastic, from what I saw it was like playing at home, it was a fantastic crowd and it helped us a lot, when we are a little bit tired, they help us to be energized again, and I think players like Lukas Nilsson took a lot of responsibility today and did a hard job on the difficult phases. And I must say also our calmness on those situations also paid off, so I’m happy that we won today”.

HP: Both you and Andreas Palicka are having a great tournament so far, what is it like to share the goal of the NT as well, and how easy is to understand each other’s moments?

MA: “Well, of course that because we share the goal on Rhein Neckar Lowen we understand each other very well, and so far, so good. I think I could’ve played a little bit better today, but then Andreas came into the game and made really good saves almost immediately. Also, we work together with our coach Mats Olsson, a legendary player, so we have a really good team”.

HP: You mentioned the fact that you’ve played 5 games in 7 days, and how tough it is for players, would you change something if it was within your power?

MA: “Well, yes, it would be good if we’d have some more days to re-gain some strength, regeneration is very important for us, so maybe having at least one day between games would be great”.

HP: Is this something players usually talk about during the season? There have been injuries coming into this World Championship, and also into the women’s EHF Euro, so is this something you discuss?

MA: “Yes, of course. It’s always a question how much we can play and at what cost. If we play at this tempo like we’re playing now I think for the guys and the girls who are playing in the big leagues and have an intense calendar with the Champions League, the national league, and also the national team, with lots of tournaments, there will be a lot of more injuries in the future. We have to look out that we don’t lose the best players, the ones who play on the best leagues and the most games; that they don’t stop playing these tournaments, because that’s also what the spectators want to see and also the experts and the other players”.

Photo credit: Aniko Kovacs – IHF

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