CAIRO (Reuters) – Holders Denmark reached the world handball championship final with a thrilling 35-33 win over Spain to set up a highly-anticipated clash with Scandinavian neighbours Sweden who stunned more heralded France 32-26 on Friday.
The Danes, who are also the Olympic title holders, prevailed in a titanic clash with European champions Spain thanks to an effervescent performance from top scorer Mikkel Hansen, who netted 12 goals.
Magnus Jensen added seven for Denmark, who led throughout the fast-paced contest but nearly threw away their lead in the final minute as Spain pulled back to 34-33 and missed a sitter to force overtime.
Ruben Marchan hit the underside of the bar with time running out for Spain and the pacy Lasse Svan Hansen converted a fast break on the buzzer to send the Danish bench into raptures in the Cairo Stadium Hall.
Sweden will head into Sunday’s final high on confidence following an impressive win over former champions France, who own a record six titles.
Hampus Wanne tormented his Spanish markers on the left flank and finished with a game-high 11 goals and Daniel Pettersson netted six from as many shots, while goalkeeper Andreas Palicka racked up 11 saves.
Sweden took the game by the scruff of the neck after a see-saw opening 15 minutes and never looked back after turning a 7-6 deficit into 12-8 lead late in the first half.
Having created space on either flank all evening, the Swedes were also lethal on fast breaks against a tired-looking French team who never looked like pulling off another comeback after beating Hungary in overtime to reach the semis.
The Swedes, who won the last of their four world titles in the 1999 tournament in Cairo, moved up a gear after Spain had slashed the deficit to 23-20 as Wanne sealed their progress when he netted to make it 29-24 in the closing stages.
The Spaniards will take on France in the bronze medal match on Sunday before Denmark and Sweden take centre stage.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Edititng by Christian Radnedge)