It is all about mathematics and success, when Spain and Iceland face for the top position in Group B in Aalborg on Thursday, 18:00 hrs.
Although both teams have made it to the main round already, the final outcome of points taken with them to Herning's Group I is completely open.
Spain will definitely bring two points to Jyske Bank Boxen, as they beat Norway (27:25) and Hungary (34:27) before. In case of another victory against Iceland they would have the maximum of four points as a starting base in the main round.
In contrast, Iceland still can bring everything from one point to four points to Herning after their 27:27 against Hungary on the second match day. If they lose against Spain and Hungary proceed to the main round, it is only one point.
If they tie with Spain and Hungary proceed it is two and if they beat Spain and Hungary proceed it is three.
The optimal case for the team of coach Aron Kristjansson would be a victory against Spain and a Hungarian defeat against Norway – as then the draw against Hungary would not be valid anymore and Iceland would take four points to the main round.
Playmakers under spotlight
The duel will be a clash of two stunning, but completely different playmakers: Joan Canellas, the powerful world champion and EHF Champions League winner on the Spanish side and Aron Palmarsson, the highly gifted, but also fast shooting mastermind of Iceland.
“We will have to show more fighting spirit, if we want to be successful against Iceland,” said Canellas, awarded best player of his team, after the match against Norway. “We have our chances, nothing is decided before the start, as also this match begins at 0:0,” added Palmarsson.
Both sides have never won EHF EURO gold, but both sides have European silverware in their cabinet: Iceland took the bronze medal in 2010 in Austria, while Spain even had played three EHF EURO finals, but lost all of them in 1996, 1998 and 2006.
For both opponents the defence is extremely important. “We need to get our regular rhythm, which means causing opponent's turnovers and starting counter-attacks,” Spanish Gedeon Guardiola forecasted the tactics against the 2008 Olympic runners-up.
Silver exception of losing string
Winning the silver medal in Beijing was the greatest ever success in Icelandic handball – and on their way to the final against France they clashed the Spaniards in a never expected clear semi-final (36:30). But the Iberians had their happy-ending in the bronze final by beating Croatia.
Still seven players of the Icelandic squad (Gustavsson, Hallgrimsson, Atlason, Sigurdsson, Gudjonsson, Jakobsson, Gunnarsson) and three Spaniards (Entrerrios, Rocas and Tomas) are on court on Thursday, who played in Beijing more than five years ago.
“Spain are the world champions and we have to replace some injured players in Denmark – but still we have a chance to beat them,” said Kristjansson, whose team from the statistic point of view is the outsider.
Except the Olympic semi-final, Iceland lost six of the last seven matches against the Iberians, including the 2012 EHF EURO main round duel in Serbia (26:31).