Denmark claimed their first-ever men’s handball gold at the Olympic Games with a two-goal win against France, ending Les Experts eighth-year grip on the Olympic title. The victory comes only days after Denmark qualified for the Olympic semi-finals for the first time ever, after their previous best ranking of fourth was recorded at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
“It was the Olympics in 1996 – that was the first time I realised what the Olympics were and I thought it was amazing and dreamt about one day making this,” said Jannick Green Krejberg after the match. “It’s been a tough competition, so many good teams…We had some luck of course, you need that to win. But we worked really hard and played well.”
Future Arena, Sunday 21 August
Final: Denmark vs France 28:26 (16:14)
France began the match in attack but did not find the goal on their first attempt, and when Denmark moved into offence they immediately began with a seven-on-six tactic as goalkeeper Niklas Landin Jacobsen came off for Kasper Sondergaard. As a result, France’s second goal was off a long-range shot from Michael Guigou, who intercepted and shot from inside his team’s half to give them an early lead at 2:1.
After five minutes the score stood at 3:2 to France, before Valentin Porte struck from right wing to open a two-goal lead at 4:2. Henrik Toft Hansen received a two-minute suspension, though Denmark still found the goal with six attackers while Landin was off, but the world champions response was quick with Daniel Narcisse firing one into the top corner on a counter attack. Mikkel Hansen closed the gap to one on a penalty (4:5, eighth minute), and Denmark levelled in the next attack thanks to Henrik Toft Hansen.
With the score at 6:6 in the 12th, Landin made a penalty save against Guigou, and after that his team scored two consecutive goals thanks to Morten Olsen and Mikkel Hansen that earned Denmark a two-goal lead at 9:7 before Narcisse decreased the score line to one at 8:9. France levelled at 9:9 with Guigou finding Denmark’s empty goal again, after which the Scandinavian team ended the seven-on-six tactic.
France claimed a narrow edge with goals from Adrian Dipanda and Nikola Karabatic moving them in front to 12:10 in the 21st. After Henrik Toft Hansen closed the gap to one in the 22nd, neither team scored for two minutes until Guigou added his fifth, quickly followed by two goals for Denmark that levelled the game at 13:13 in the 27th. Mikkel Hansen and Lasse Svan scored for Denmark to secure a two-goal advantage right before the half-time break, and when the match resumed the Scandinavian side were the first on the board to create a three-goal gap inside the first minute of the period.
Denmark retained a two to three-goal lead for five minutes before France came within one thanks to a fast-break goal from their youngest player, 20-year-old Ludovic Fabregas (18:19, 36th minute). But that relief was temporary – by the 43rd Denmark had reclaimed the consistent lead of two to three goals, with Sondergaard taking the score to 23:20 with 15 minutes left.
When Narcisse was sent off for two minutes Denmark pulled further in front, as Lasse Svan and Sondergaard increased the score line to five at 25:20 in the 49th. France called a time-out, and as the final 10 minutes began they slowly closed the gap. Svan received a suspension in a critical moment for Denmark, with the score at 26:22. His absence allowed Kentin Mahe to take France within three, before Landin made a crucial save off Nikola Karabatic in the 54th (26:23).
After Denmark returned to full strength Narcisse broke through the centre of their defence and added a goal that put the score at 24:26 with little over five minutes remaining on the clock. At that point Omeyer saved a shot off Sondergaard, but it took almost two minutes for his team to reward his work as Nikola Karabatic decreased the difference to one (25:26).
Svan reclaimed the two-goal lead for Denmark 27:25 in the 58th, and the score stayed there as the last minute of the match began with the Scandinavian team in possession. France moved to one-on-one defence, but Mads Mensah Larsen found a way through to score the goal that secured victory for Denmark.
The loss ended France’s dream of securing three straight titles, though Les Experts still add a silver to their collection, putting their Olympic medal tally at four.
“When you’ve got a medal around your neck it’s a little bit different and you can see what you achieved as a team,” said Luka Karabatic. “Getting a silver medal is something unbelievable still, and in a career those moments are going to stay forever, so we are very proud to bring one more medal for France.”