Iceland win keeps group B wide open
Iceland made it two wins in two games as round 2 for group B came to a close in Budapest, with the Nordic team securing a close victory over the Netherlands, 29:28, after fending off a great comeback from the Dutch.
Iceland now sit alone on top of the table with four points, while the Netherlands are second on two points ahead of Hungary on the same, and Portugal stay on zero points — but are not yet out of the main round race.
- the Netherlands proved their great game against Hungary in round 1 was no one-off as they kept Iceland on their toes until the end, but Iceland ultimately proved stronger
- the critical actions in the final minutes came from Iceland goalkeeper Björgvin Pall Gustavsson and wing Sigvaldi Bjørn Gudjonsson, who received the Grundfos Player of the Match award. Gustavsson made a save at 27:26 in the 55th minute in between two goals scored by Gudjonsson, opening the door for a two-goal advantage that would ultimately secure the win
- the gap was never more than two goals in the first 30 minutes, but a strong start to the second half saw Iceland reach an advantage of five by the 37th, 20:15, and hold the same distance latest at 22:17 in the 40th
- Iceland benefitted from maintaining the lead most of the game, as the Netherlands fought back from the latest five-goal distance to pull level multiple times in the last 10 minutes — but they could not complete the comeback to take the lead and Iceland held them off for the win
- playing his 35th EHF EURO match, Iceland captain Aron Palmarsson opened the match with the first goal — and the fastest of the game, at 133km/h. It was Iceland’s 65th EHF EURO match overall, while it was the Netherlands’ fifth
Wide open group ahead of round 3
What a group in Budapest! While several of the other groups have seen main round berths clinched, Iceland’s victory means group B remains open with one round left to play and no one sure to progress yet.
Had the Netherlands defeated Iceland, Portugal would have been eliminated from the competition, so coach Paulo Pereira’s team will certainly thank Iceland for taking the points in this encounter.
For the Netherlands, a main round berth would be their first, after their debut at the EURO ended in a 17th place finish in 2020. Hungary, Iceland and Portugal have all progressed to the main round before, with Iceland the only previous medallists, back in 2010.
It was a very, very difficult game. We had prepared very well because we have great respect for the Netherlands and we have seen the development of the team, which has been very positive in the last years. So we expected a very difficult game and it was like that.
At the end, it was the small details that made a difference. That hurts. But at the end, I think we have to be proud and not be down too long because we have a very good chance against Portugal and we look forward to the next game.