Disappointment and extreme joy were the feelings on the Lusail Multipurpose Hall after the last match of the day between Denmark and Argentina. The first, reflected on the faces of the European and World runner’s up, the latter on the Argentinian Gladiadores who grasped one point after a hard fought battle that finished with a 24-24 tie.
“Today’s result is historical for Argentinian handball. Probably the best result along with our win over Sweden in Sweden in 2011.Whenever we reach our maximum standard of play we feel that we can beat everyone”, stressed right wing Federico Pizarro who was the MVP of the match (8 goals) and helped the team to a stunning result for the world of handball.
The first minutes of the match were tight and Argentina took the lead 3-5, but soon Niklas Landin and Anders Eggert reacted and they both helped for the team comeback. The conducted by Eduardo Gallardo were doing a good job in the defence, but failed at the other end of the court (scored only three goals on the last 20’ of the first half), while the Danish made use of their backcourt power to take a five goal lead. They Europeans managed to score even when being two men down. By the end of the first 30 minutes the scoreboard was 13-8.
At the beginning of the second half Denmark kept the control of the match and despite the three minute suspensions they received on the first 11 minutes, they were able to keep the lead and, ironically, Argentina’s comeback started right after Federico Fernandez’ third two minute suspension. This meant that the South Americans were left without one of the most efficient wingers and better defenders. But that only seemed to give the Argentinians more strength.
GudmundurGudmundsson boys entered on a 6’ spell without goals (both goalkeepers Matias Schulz and Fernando García had a lot to do with that), and the Gladiadores, led by a fast paced attack and successful definitions against Landin, approached the Scandinavians on the scoreboard.
With a two goal difference and two minutes left to be played, hopes were high for Argentina but the attack was in Danish hands. An offensive foul by Casper Mortensen led to a fast break that concluded with a goal from Leonardo Querin. Denmark was 24-23 ahead and there was one minute left on the clock. Mikkel Hansen faked a shot on 9 meters and bounced the ball past the defence straight through the center, but failed to catch the ball after the bounce and the last possession was for Argentina.
Montpellier’s star Diego Simonet, who had had a discrete first half, took the responsibility and after a characteristic sprint from left to right, scored the 24th goal and tied the match with just 20” left. Argentina’s tough defence managed to keep Denmark away from the goal, but the Europeans had a last chance with a last free shot when the time was over. Hansen made the defencejump after the fake, but Garcia, who had very important interventions throughout the second half, saved the last ball of the match and helped the Argentinians grab the first point of the tournament.
Gudmundsson did not hide his disappointment after the match: “I was rather content with our first half and our start of the second, but then we started to move the ball around too slowly.However, it is never easy when being one or two players down for almost all the time. It was quite unbelievable to experience this, but one point is still better than none. We will simply have to come back”.
Center back Bo Spellerberg also shared his view: “We were leading by six, but we made too many mistakes in the second half, and Argentina were good at punishing those through counter attacks.We had the chance to close the match several times, but they managed to put pressure on us all the way, we missed some big opportunities.”
“We knew beforehand that Denmark was one of the best teams in the world. If we were going to stand a chance, we would have to be at our best at both ends of the court, while Denmark would need to have a very bad day”, expressed Gallardo and added: “I think the match developed the way we had planned, and I am very pleased with this result, of course.”
“Our first half was not good, but in second half we improved in defence as well as in attack and both our goalkeepers were great. In the end victory could have gone either way”, confessed Pizarro after the match.
Argentina will face Poland on Sunday while Denmark will meet Saudi Arabia.
TEXT: LAURA AGENA
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