Germany won its second title at the 2016 European Men’s Handball Championship. The 16-team tournament was split into two group stages. The first group stage had four groups of four teams where the top three advance to the next group stage. The teams and results were combined into two groups of six teams where the winners advance to the semi-finals. The highest ranked eligible team would qualify to the Olympics. The European Men’s Handball Championship was held in four cities throughout Poland with the final being held in Krakow from January 15th to January 31st 2016.
Poland would go on to win Group A though they didn’t look that dangerous with their narrow 29-28 and 24-23 wins over Serbia and Macedonia respectively. It was their 31-25 win over World Champions France in which they looked good. The loss left France as second in the group while Macedonia advanced over Serbia due to goal difference after the two teams tied 27-27.
Group B began well for Iceland as it defeated Norway in a narrow 26-25 match, but two loses against Belarus and Croatia left the team eliminated. Norway on the other hand won its matches against those teams and actually ended up winning the group. Croatia would claim second in the group over Belarus as it defeated the nation 27-21 on the first day of the group stage.
Group C was the closest group with the largest blowout over the six matches was Germany’s 25-21 win over Slovenia. That match ended up eliminating Slovenia as a 24-24 draw against Spain gave the team hope going into its final match. Spain would go to win the group with 32-29 and 24-22 wins over Germany and Sweden respectively. Germany grabbed second in the group with a comeback 27-26 win over Sweden.
Denmark topped Group D with three wins though was required to work for the win against Montenegro as the won the match 30-28. Despite that performance Montenegro would be eliminated from the tournament after failing to win a match. Russia finished second in the group though Hungary made a bit of a push at the end brining the lead down to one, but a last second shot was blocked thus giving Russia the 27-26 win.
In the second group stage it was Norway whom topped Group I. Last place Macedonia gave Norway the hardest match as they built up a five point lead with less than 15 minutes remaining. Norway was able to comeback from the deficit and even took a brief lead. Macedonia however, was able to hold on for the 31-31 tie. France lost the opportunity to defend its title as they lost their final game to Norway 29-24. Croatia needing a huge win over Poland to finish ahead of France and Poland did just so as they qualified to the semi-final with a 37-23 victory.
Group II came down to Denmark, Germany and Spain on the final day of the second group stage. The main match to watch was between Denmark and Germany. The match was a seesaw affair with neither team taking a lead of greater than two. Germany tied the match with four minutes remaining and was able to score the final two goals to win 25-23. Spain was able to qualify to the semi-final over Denmark with its win over Russia though the team had to endure a Russian push during the final 10 minutes, but they managed to win the match 25-23. As they tied in points Spain finished first in the group because it had previously defeated Germany.
The first semi-final was between Norway and Germany. Germany took an early four goal lead, but Norway was able to cut the lead down. For the rest of the match the lead between the two teams never rose by more than two as the two teams ended up finishing tied up at 27-27 by the final whistle. The first extra-time looked to have the same results, but a goal by Germany’s Kai Hafner with five seconds remaining gave the Germans a spot in the final with a final score of 34-33.
The other semi-final between Spain and Croatia began well for Croatia, but a poor second half of the first half not only gave Spain the opportunity to catch-up, but to build a 18-14 lead at the half. Croatia attempted to come back in the second half and got as close to a one goal deficit, but Spain was able to hold on to the lead and extend it to win the match 33-29.
The final began with Germany taking the lead over Spain and from there they would never relinquish it. At one point they held a nine point lead over Spain making the gap too enormous for Spain to ever catch-up. Germany won the European title and a spot at the Olympics by a score of 24-17. Croatia won the bronze medal over Norway via a score of 31-24.
This will be Germany’s tenth appearance at the Olympics in the men’s tournament. They will be looking to win their first medal since their silver medal performance in 2004. For the rest of Europe eight nations will get a second opportunity to qualify at one of the three final Olympic qualification tournaments. Poland, Spain, Denmark, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia are qualified based on their performance at the World Championship while Norway and Sweden qualified based on their performance at the European Championship.
- EHF. 2016 Men’s European Handball Championship – Schedule and Results. Access on January 31 2016.