HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Olympic handball champions Denmark and Scandinavian rivals Norway set up a mouth-watering world championship final after impressive victories on Friday.
The Danes romped to a 38-30 semi-final win over holders France, after edging them in the 2016 Olympic final, while the Norwegians downed Denmark’s co-hosts Germany 31-25 after standing firm in the cauldron of Hamburg’s Barclaycard Arena.
Denmark will be strong favorites to clinch their maiden world title on their home court in Herring on Sunday after the French take on Germany in the bronze-medal match.
The Germans were roared on by a fervent 16,000 home crowd but trailed throughout the contest against a pacy Norwegian side who lived up to the billing of being a rising handball force.
Having enjoyed their first podium finish in the 2017 world championship, Norway stifled the home side’s fast-flowing offense with rugged defending and creative attacking under intense pressure.
Right back Magnus Rod led Norway with seven goals and playmaker Sandor Sagosen, who dished out a barrage of assists, chipped in with six to cancel out a valiant solo effort by Germany winger Uwe Gensheimer, who netted seven times.
The Danes, who stretched their perfect tournament record to nine successive wins, inflicted another painful defeat on France after left back Mikkel Hansen served up a magnificent individual performance.
The towering shooter scored seven goals in the first half with a barrage of unstoppable long-range efforts and added five after the break as he pierced through the French rearguard almost at will.
A normally robust French defense looked flat from the start as quick and incisive passing by the Danes opened plenty of space for Hansen and right wing Lasse Svan to propel the Danes into a 21-15 halftime lead.
The second half produced more of the same with right back Rasmus Lauge also firing on all cylinders for Denmark and the writing was on the wall for France after the Danes romped into a 30-20 lead.
Looking for their seventh overall world title and third in a row after being crowned champions in 2015 and 2017, the French launched a brief fightback in the latter stages but came up short against the free-scoring Danes.
Lauge added six goals for Denmark while Kentin Mahe led France with eight from 10 shots.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris