Record champions Sweden reclaim EHF EURO trophy
Sweden returned to the top of the EHF EURO podium exactly 20 years after their team last raised the trophy as they defeated the back-to-back winners from 2018 and 2020, Spain, 27:26 in a dramatic final in Budapest Handball Arena on Sunday.
Spain had won every game against Sweden since 2009 and the Scandinavian team finally ended that series after a tight 60 minutes, with the decisive goal coming courtesy of Niclas Ekberg on a high-pressure post-buzzer penalty shot.
For Sweden, it is the fifth EHF EURO title — an extension of their own record in the competition. Spain also extended their own record — for most silver medals at the EHF EURO, now counting five.
- when the teams met in the 2018 final, Spain won clearly, 29:23. They also took a commanding victory, 32:28, in the preliminary round at the Men’s EHF EURO 2022. But that was not at all the case in the 2022 final, as the match was level until the final buzzer — and Sweden secured the trophy thanks to Ekberg sinking a penalty goal after time
- Spain took the lead for the first time inside the last minute of the half, after Sweden stayed in front with a steady advantage of one to two goals until that point thanks largely to superb defence backed by a great Andreas Palicka
- Sweden’s defence forced Spain to favour shots from the wings early on, and Angel Fernandez and Aleix Gómez rose to the task, combining for seven of their side’s goals in the first half. Fernandez scored three of Spain’s first five goals in the match
- Palicka saved at 43 per cent into the last 10 minutes of the opening period, while it took Spain keeper Rodrigo Corrales 12 minutes to make his first stop. Corrales was replaced by Gonzalo Perez de Vargas around the middle of the second half, but Palicka clearly won the battle between the posts, with 11 saves, and was awarded Grundfos Player of the Match
- Spain temporarily opened a two-goal lead at the start of the second half, but after 17:15 in the 36th minute, neither team held an advantage of more than one goal and it all came down to the last minutes. Neither team could score after Joan Cañellas struck for 26:26 and a penalty was called for Ekberg to emerge the hero for Sweden
Fifth title for Sweden — after two-decade wait
It was in 2002 that Sweden last celebrated an EHF EURO title — and their most recent in any major competition. The side have never won the Olympic Games but did clinch the world title four times, although the last was way back in 1999.
So it has been a very long wait for the Scandinavian nation. In 2018 they had the chance to end that wait when they returned to the EHF EURO final, but Spain destroyed the dream. However, it was a different story on Sunday evening in Budapest.
Sweden’s last series of dominance in the EUR began with two final participations in three editions, with a gap in between, just as they have achieved now. Perhaps they are on the cusp of another great dynasty after the ‘Bengan boys’ ruled the EHF EURO around the turn of the millennium.
Given the leadership of the great Jim Gottfridsson as only the third two-time EHF EURO MVP in history, ‘Gotte’s guys’ might be the appropriate nickname for this new generation.
At this moment I cannot think that we made history, but tomorrow, when we are in Sweden and millions will celebrate us, we will recognise what we did today. This is what we were fighting for.
For us respect from our opponents is the most positive thing we can receive. Of course, we wanted to be in Sweden’s place, as you never know how many more chances you have to win a final. We gave everything and were competitive, so I am not that disappointed, as we lost against a great team. Today we see it dark, but this will change quickly.