Meet the finalists: Will Denmark or Croatia grab gold?
They combine to win five of the last six championships, and one of them will add another title on Sunday: Denmark and Croatia feature in the high-profile men’s final at the Beach Handball EURO 2021 in Varna on Sunday.
Can Denmark successfully defend the trophy they won for the first time in 2019? Or will Croatia get back to the top of the podium, after winning a record four straight golds between 2009 and 2015?
Here is how Denmark and Croatia compare to each other:
How did they get to the final?
Denmark’s 2019 triumph was a one-off? If anyone had doubts, the Danes have come up with a clear answer in Varna. They eased through a preliminary group without conceding a set, and opponents included the likes of Norway and Spain.
They dropped a set for the first time in the main round and looked edgy at times in both the quarter- and the semi-final, but their sheer class prevailed.
Croatia were always going to arrive fired up in Varna. They were bitterly disappointed two years ago about missing the semi-finals for the first time since 2006.
Like today’s opponents, Croatia dropped only one set coming into the knockout phase, before two 2:0 wins over Norway and Spain opened their door the final.
What does history say?
Denmark have been to a final only once before – but they won it right away, in 2019. They have two more semi-finals to their account – in 2009 and again in 2013, when they won bronze.
Croatia are approaching their sixth final, and they have won four of their previous five. No one else lifted the trophy at any Beach Handball EURO event between 2009 and 2015. Croatia would like nothing more on Sunday than start regaining some of that old dominance.
Who scores their goals?
Denmark: Martin Vilstrup Andersen. The star player keeps producing the goods, even if it has only been two months since he returned from right knee surgery. His tally? 117 and counting.
Croatia: Lucian Bura. He is the second-best scorer of the championships, with 127 points. And he delivers when it matters most: 21 points in the quarter-final against Norway, 23 in the semi against Spain.
Who is another key player?
Denmark: Ronnie Vilstrup Andersen. Always taking the load of responsibility on his broad shoulders, carrying the team through tough moments. Like he did with two stunning saves in the semi-final shoot-out against Russia.
Croatia: Ivan Juric. The legend turns 35 this year but age seems to get no grip on him. Was our Player of the Day on day 3 and impressed with 17 points in the quarter-final against Norway.
What do the EHF experts say?
Márcio Menino: “Denmark. In the end it will be a goalkeeper battle and then Denmark will have the upper hand.”
Chris O’Reilly: “Denmark. If they both play at the frenetic pace they are capable of, then Denmark will win due to their wider array of weapons in attack.”
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