Hungary take on the Olympic champions

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22 January 2017

Hungary have not beat Denmark in a major international competition since 2007, but hope to beat the odds on Sunday.

Denmark entered the 25th IHF Men’s World Championship as one of the favourites for the trophy, and showed they are ready to chase the one title missing from their mantelpiece. Now the business end of the France 2017 begins and each match is a final with the prospect of elimination at the final whistle, and with that the pressure rises for both teams.

Eighth-final: Hungary vs Denmark, 16:00 local time

Hungary and Denmark are two of the teams with the longest history in the Men’s World Championship, as both made their first appearances in the event more than 50 years ago. Since then Hungary have won one medal, a silver in 1986, while Denmark count three silver – in 1967, 2011 and 2013 – and a bronze from the 2007 event in Germany.

Neither team has ever been crowned world champions, and it is the only major international title to elude the Danes after they won their first ever Olympic men’s gold medal in 2016 and won the EHF EURO in 2008 and 2012.

In recent years Denmark have been a steadfast participant in the knock-out or main round stage of all major international tournaments, while Hungary have had some up and down performances – dropping from a fourth-place finish at the 2012 Olympics to non-qualification for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The history between them is also long, and stands at seven wins for Denmark, four for Hungary, and one draw – though Hungary have not beat the Scandinavian team since they won 30:29 in the preliminary round at the 2007 Men’s World Championship in Germany. Denmark still went on to rank above the Hungarians and won the bronze medal, while Hungary finished ninth. The last time Hungary placed above Denmark on the final ranking at the World Championship was in 2003.

Considering the recent results, Denmark’s status as current Olympic champions, the Scandinavian team are the undeniable favourites to progress from the eighth-finals – but all the most recent international handball competitions have shown that this sport likes surprises.

Players to watch:

Choosing just one player to watch in the Denmark squad in, particular is next to impossible, but the Scandinavians do rely heavily on two players to perform at their best to push them to the next level of their game: 2015 World Handball Player of the Year Mikkel Hansen and captain Niklas Landin. Landin was named in the All-star Team at the Rio 2016 Games, while Hansen was awarded MVP of the competition.

When goalkeeper Landin has a good day he can stop an opponent in their tracks, as he did with Sweden in the preliminary round when he saved 23 shots at 48 per cent and even scored a goal. Overall Landin has stopped 56 balls at 42 per cent, and ranks as the second-best keeper at France 2017.

Left back Hansen is always one of Denmark’s biggest threats, and finished as top scorer in the 2011 World Championship and of the VELUX EHF Champions League in 2011/12 and 2015/16.

For Hungary, Laszlo Nagy – who has been called back into the team having recovered from his ankle injury – is always the stand-out player to watch. But another player to keep an eye on is 20-year-old centre back Adam Juhasz, who has been tipped as one of Hungary’s top young talents for some time and is proving he deserves that reputation at his first senior World Championship, scoring 20 goals so far.

France 2017 ambassador and 2003 world champion Valérie Nicolas gives her throughs on the tie… 

“It’s going to be huge! Danes are the favourites on paper, even so we will surely see a very good game between two strong teams. This may be a bit difficult for Denmark at the start of the match, because the Hungarian defence will try to be physically active, but they won’t manage to play this way for the whole match. Denmark relied on their subs in the last match against Qatar, but they seem to be good. Mikkel Hansen was rested and has not played against Qatar; the best player in the world is going to be hungry to play!”