Determined Danes defend European crown
The night before the men’s final at the Beach Handball EURO 2021, Denmark star Martin Vilstrup Andersen was talking in his sleep.
His roommate told him the next morning what he had been saying: “We will win tomorrow.”
It didn’t remain a dream, as Denmark indeed won the final against Croatia (2:0 – 25:20, 28:22) to successfully defend the crown they had earned somewhat surprisingly two years ago.
“We were here, we believed in ourselves,” Vilstrup Andersen said right after the final. “To become European champions, undefeated, is nothing I ever dreamed of.”
The strength of Denmark showed throughout the whole week. Approaching each match with the same intensity, whether it was in the preliminary round or in the final, they proved too good for anybody.
“We are humble as well,” Vilstrup Andersen said. “Croatia, we lost against them I don’t know how many times. They are the most experienced team in Europe. Good players in every position. Did we expect to be here? Mwah, a little bit. We hoped so and we got the confidence.”
The confidence showed in both sets of the final. Relying on a strong defence as the base, Denmark got the edge over Croatia thanks to a flawless attacking game, enabling Nikolaj Mogensen to score 24 points, 12 in each set.
The lost final meant at least some consolation for Croatia, after they had sensationally missed out on the semi-finals two years ago.
With good-old Ivan Juric named MVP and Lucian Bura scoring 149 times - only two less than the tournament's top scorer Cemal Kütahya of Turkey, Croatia were once again among the most attractive teams in the field.
Denmark and Croatia combined have now won six of the last seven European Championships, only interrupted by Spain’s triumph in 2017.
Russia beat Spain 2:1 for bronze
Two hours earlier, two-time former champions Russia took the bronze after an entertaining match against Spain, winning it 2:1 (23:22, 14:16, 7:6).
The first set ended with a golden goal from Nikita Iltinskiy, the shoot-out with Igor Neklyudov netting the decisive point, 7:6.
It was Russia’s first medal since their silver from the 2017 event.
The Men's Beach Handball EURO 2021 All-star Team:
- fair play team: Germany
- best goalkeeper: Simon Sejr Jensen - DEN
- best defender: Evgeny Svestula - RUS
- top scorer: Cemal Kütahya - TUR (151 points)
- MVP: Ivan Juric - CRO
All photos © 2021 kolektiff images