Iceland shock France with biggest EURO defeat ever
The second match on the second main round day in Budapest threw group I wide open, as Iceland secured a win that was not necessarily surprising — but was shocking for the one-sided nature of it. Iceland had never beaten France at the EHF EURO and wrote history with a decisive result of 29:21.
With the win, Iceland moved up to four points alongside France and, at least temporarily, Denmark, who will meet Croatia in the last match on Saturday night.
- Iceland created a seven-goal lead by half-time and stayed clear in front, at 24:16, with 15 minutes to go. Their control of the match was complete and they appeared the winners long before the final buzzer
- the Nordic side had the lead from the fifth minute on as they frustrated France with 6-0 defence and a superb opening from goalkeeper Viktor Hallgrímsson, who made nine saves at 47 per cent in the first half
- Ómar Ingi Magnusson and Viggo Kristjánsson also had stellar matches individually. Magnusson scored eight goals in the opening 30 minutes and reached a total of 10, while Kristjánsson netted nine
- Iceland had not beaten France since the 2012 Olympic Games, when they won 30:29 in the group phase, although France went on to take the gold medal at London 2012 while Iceland were knocked out in the quarter-finals
- it was France’s 100th match at the EHF EURO — and it was marked with their biggest defeat ever in the competition. France lost by seven three times before — 23:30 to Germany in 1998, 23:30 to Russia in 2000 and 22:29 to Croatia in 2012
Hallgrímsson finds his feet
With usual number one Björgvin Pall Gustavsson in isolation due to Covid-19, 21-year-old Viktor Hallgrímsson has had the responsibility thrust upon him.
Hallgrímsson made his EHF EURO debut in 2020 and caught attention as a penalty killer, with seven saves against shots from the seven-metre line — the joint-highest together with Spaniard Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, though Hallgrímsson played two fewer matches than Perez de Vargas and also had a higher save rate in this category, at 44 per cent.
In the main round opener against Denmark, Hallgrímsson had a tough game, with only two saves in his 30 minutes on court. In the first half against France, he stopped nine for a rate of 47 per cent and ultimately finished the game with 15 saves at 44 per cent, earning the Grundfos Player of the Match award. Hallgrímsson also secured the historic result with a penalty save after the buzzer against Hugo Descat.
The last days have been really tough for us, we missed a lot of players tonight but we played absolutely great, especially in the first half. There was a lot of intensity in our defence, we managed to score in attack as well. I don’t know what the future will bring for us but, tonight I am really really happy about what we did.
Covid is not an excuse tonight, Iceland were just better than us. They played really well, outplayed us on both sides of the court. There is nothing to explain, we just missed out game and did not play well enough. Hopefully, we can fix some things tomorrow to get going again in two days.