Olympics-Handball-Denmark overcome Egypt as European giants stay perfect

TOKYO (Reuters) - Olympic champions Denmark survived a scare before downing dark horses Egypt 32-27 at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Stadium on Monday while European heavyweights France, Spain and Sweden also maintained their 100% records in the men’s competition.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Handball - Men - Group B - Egypt v Denmark - Yoyogi National Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - July 26, 2021. Denmark players celebrate winning the match REUTERS/Susana Vera

Denmark had scraped past Egypt after a penalty shootout en route to their world title in January and faced early pressure when the African champions stormed to a 15-14 lead after 30 minutes.

The Danes were a different team after the break, tightening their defence and creating more openings for their attackers as they went ahead for the first time in the match before opening up a three-goal advantage at 26-23 and pulling away.

Mikkel Hansen scored nine goals and Mathias Gidsel had eight while goalkeeper Niklas Landin made 14 saves, including two with his head that left him needing medical attention, to help the favourites make it two wins from two matches in Group B.

“Egypt are one of the toughest opponents in the tournament, so it’s a good feeling to win... they play with a lot of power, but we were able to withstand that and respond when we needed to,” Denmark centre back Mads Mensah said.

Earlier, double Olympic champions France rang in the changes after their opening win over Argentina to outclass Brazil 34-29 and put themselves in a strong position to make the knockouts.

The top four teams out of six from each of the two groups will advance to the quarter-finals.

It was Brazil’s second loss in as many games and their woes were compounded in the dying seconds when left back Thiagus Petrus was dismissed for an elbow to the head of Nikola Karabatic.

“The good thing is we can rely on the whole squad so we can rotate players,” France coach Guillaume Gille said.

“The majority of the group have played a part today and it’s important to have that flexibility. There’s a lot of quality in the squad... they’re all capable of following the plan.”

Group A rivals Germany responded to their narrow defeat by Spain with a 33-25 win over Argentina, though Alfred Gislason’s side endured a nervy finish after captain Uwe Gensheimer’s red card in his 200th game.

Spain entered their clash with Norway having beaten them in their previous eight meetings but the European champions had to work hard for a 28-27 victory with a last-minute penalty.

Portugal also left it late to get past Bahrain 26-25 while Sweden stayed perfect with a 28-26 win over Japan.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon