Handball: Spain Defends Title at European Men’s Championship and Qualifies to the Olympics

Spain’s men successfully defended their title at the 2020 European Men’s Handball Championship. By winning, the nation has also qualified to the Olympics. In total, 24 nations competed in six groups of four teams with the top two advancing to the second group stage where two groups of six team compete and the top two advancing to the semi-finals. The European Men’s Handball Championship was held across six cities in Sweden (Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg), Austria (Vienna and Graz) and Norway (Trondheim) from January 9th to January 26th 2020.

Using a strong second half to reverse a deficit after half-time, Group A was won by Croatia. The nation was down 13-12 against Montenegro and 10-8 against Serbia, but managed to defeat both nations 27-21 and 24-21 respectively. Second place was decided during the final set of matches where Belarus defeated Montenegro 36-27 to advance to the next round.

Austria went undefeated to win Group B with victories over the Czech Republic (32-29), Ukraine (34-30) and North Macedonia (32-28). Also advancing to the next round was the Czech Republic who after their initial loss won matches against North Macedonia (27-25) and Ukraine (23-19). North Macedonia finished third thanks to a 26-25 victory over Ukraine during the opening set of matches.

Defending European champions Spain won Group C by winning against all three of their opponents. Germany also advanced to the next round with a 34-23 victory over the Netherlands and a 28-27 win over Latvia. The Netherlands finished third thanks to a 32-24 victory over Latvia.

One of the largest upsets of the competition occurred in Group D where 2016 Olympic silver medalist and 2019 World Championship bronze medalist France lost to Portugal 28-25. France would go on to lose to 2019 World Championship silver medalist Norway 28-26 to be eliminated. Norway won the group by going undefeated, including a 34-28 win over Portugal during the final set of matches. France finished third by scoring their only victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina (31-23).

The biggest upset however, was the elimination of the defending Olympic and World champion Denmark in Group E. Denmark lost its first match 31-30 to Iceland and drew Hungary 24-24 in the second match. While the nation was down 15-12 to Russia at half-time it was able to pull-off the 31-28 victory. However, Hungary won its final match 24-18 over Iceland to win the overall group while Iceland finished second.

Group F saw Slovenia go undefeated to win the group thanks to wins over Poland (26-23), Sweden (21-19) and Switzerland (29-25). Also advancing to the next round was Sweden who scored victories over Switzerland (34-21) and Poland (28-26). Third place went to Switzerland as the won over Poland 31-24.

Results between the advancing teams carried over to the second group stage. Group I saw both Croatia and Spain secure their spot to the semi-finals after the penultimate round. In the deciding group winner match, Spain at one point held a six goal lead, but Croatia successfully mounted a comeback and took a 1 goal lead with less than two minutes remaining. Spain however, was able to tie things up, causing the match to end in a draw. Overall this meant Spain won the group due to having a better goal differential than Croatia.

Group II was a bit messier. Going into the final set of matches, Norway was assured a spot in the semi-final while both Hungary and Slovenia had a chance to advance. Needing a victory over Portugal to have a chance, Hungary was unsuccessful, losing 34-26. Norway topped the group by winning over Slovenia 33-30 thus going undefeated.

The first semi-final between Norway and Croatia went into overtime as both nations were level at 23 goals each. The first overtime solved nothing as both teams scored three goals, but the second one saw Croatia hold on to a slim one goal lead to advance to their first European Championship final since 2010. The other match saw Spain hold a six goal lead early into the second half, but Slovenia managed to bring it back to within a single goal difference. Spain however, was able to hold Slovenia at bay to win the match 34-32 to reach their third consecutive final.

The final and Olympic quota was won by Spain who scored the final two goals of the match to win 22-20 over Croatia. The bronze medal was won by Norway who defeated Slovenia 28-20.

Unqualified nations will have one more opportunity to gain passage to the Olympics, at the Final Olympic Qualification Tournament. Due to their performance here both Slovenia and Portugal will compete along with Norway, France, Germany, Sweden and Croatia who qualified earlier based on their performance at the 2019 World Championships.

Qualified Nations

Men’s Tournament
* Spain

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