France and Denmark set for Olympic final repeat
The tantalising prospect of a repeat of the 2016 Men's Olympic final became a reality on Thursday in Tokyo when France and Denmark both won their semi-finals at the 2020 Olympic Games.
France vs Egypt 27:23 (13:13)
- France goalkeeper Vincent Gerard produced a sensational match-winning performance. Gerard saved 17 shots at a 44 per cent efficiency
- Egypt began the match brightly, leading 7:4 after 12 minutes, but France were level at half-time and they kicked clear in the second half
- Dika Mem and Hugo Descat both scored five goals for France, who booked their place in a fourth consecutive Men's Olympic final
Gerard's goalkeeping heroics make the difference
Prior to the semi-final between France and Egypt, some focus had been placed on Vincent Gerard’s record in recent semi-finals – both for club and country. However, in the semi-final on Thursday against Egypt, Gerard’s outstanding performance for France was the primary difference between the two teams.
When Nedim Remili scored in the 15th minute, the score was tied at 7:7 – although that only told half the story. If not for Gerard's five stops in the opening quarter, France might have been faced with a gap that was too big to bridge.
As Gerard continued to make crucial stops, contributions in attack from Dika Mem, Hugo Descat and Nikola Karabatic ensured that France did not trail during the second half. When Karabatic scored in the 58th minute to give France a 26:22 lead, their place in yet another Olympic final was all but confirmed.
Spain vs Denmark 23:27 (10:14)
- Mikkel Hansen fired in 12 goals for Denmark, who will play in their second consecutive men's Olympic final
- Denmark's superior shooting efficiency (59 per cent) was the decisive factor in a match in which Niklas Landin and Gonzalo Perez De Vargas both made 12 saves
- on Sunday, Spain will bid for their fourth Olympic bronze medal in men's handball
Mikkel Hansen stars again for Denmark
With a rock-solid Danish defence and Niklas Landin in world-class in form, Denmark only conceded 10 goals in the first half against Spain and a total of 23 in the match. Once again, though, Mikkel Hansen's goalscoring exploits captured the attention of the handball world in Tokyo.
Hansen scored 12 goals from 16 shots in the match, including five penalties, and his nerveless display in attack when placed under pressure was vital for Denmark. At the end of the first half, Hansen's two empty net goals extended Denmark's lead to four goals on two occasions (13:9 and 14:10).
In the second half, when Denmark needed Hansen's accuracy from the seven-metre line or his ability to create chances for his teammates in attack, he delivered. Fittingly, in the last minute of the match, Hansen scored Denmark's 27th and final goal of the match.
Final – 7 August
France vs Denmark (14:00 CEST)
Bronze medal match – 7 August
Egypt vs Spain (10:00 CEST)
Detailed results and schedules are available on the official Olympics homepage.
All Tokyo 2020 photos courtesy of IHF.