LONDON — Sweden held on to reach a fourth men's Olympic handball final and set up another shot at a first gold medal after they beat Hungary 27-26 in the semifinals yesterday. The Swedes will play either holders France or twice winners Croatia in tomorrow's gold medal game while Hungary, seeking a first men's podium finish, will contest the bronze medal match.
Like in their quarterfinal defeat of Denmark, it was the Swedish defence which saved the day while goalkeeper Mattias Andersson, on the bench for almost the entire last eight clash, came good. Hungary threatened another late show like they produced to pip Iceland in the first knockout round but this time it was not to be, Gergely Harsanyi denied an equaliser in stunning fashion by Andersson with just over a minute left.
Kim Ekdahl du Rietz took the excellent Hungarian shotstopper Nandor Fazekas by surprise, the left wing being unaware he had more time to release the ball. "I thought the referee had his hand up, so I had to take a shot," the Swede said. Sweden's men reached three consecutive finals from 1992-2000 although they did not qualify for the 2004 Athens Games or Beijing four years ago.
The reached their fourth gold medal decider by chiselling away at the solid Hungarian defence to open up a four-goal lead in the first half and entered the tunnel three strikes to the good, which their opponents could not claw back.
Niclas Ekberg bagged six goals and showed the way for the victors, who prevailed despite a constant backdrop of boos and jeers when they took penalties.
"I had a feeling we were going to win this morning. I woke up with a smile on my face and a great feeling in the stomach. It's the first time I've felt like that," said Ekberg.
Gabor Csaszar was top scorer with eight goals for the Hungarians, who walked off the court after the defeat to a standing ovation from their passionate fans. Laszlo Nagy, standing almost lifeless as team mates spoke to media, hoped Hungary could lift themselves for tomorrow's clash. "We've got to prepare ourselves mentally, above all so we can scrap for the bronze medal," he said.