Denmark lived up to their status as one of the absolute top favourites at the EHF EURO 2014, as they defeated FYR Macedonia 29:21 in front of 14,000 spectators at Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning.
The latest meeting between the two countries at a European Championship, in the main round of the EHF EURO 2012, ended with a Danish 33:32 victory after a close and dramatic match in Belgrade.
This time, however, there was nothing close or tight about the match which the Danes were dominating from the beginning to the end.
Maybe it was because their late arrival due to local weather problems that FYR Macedonia seemed to be on the way to being run over by Denmark at the beginning of Sunday night's Group A match.
After six minutes were the Danes leading 5:0, and not until eight minutes and 46 seconds did the Macedonians score their first goal, as Kiril Lazarov benefited from a penalty shot to make it 5:1.
"We had the kind of match we had hoped for. We were strong in the beginning, and that created a basis for our victory," said head coach Ulrik Wilbek.
However, the Danes went on and increased to 9:2, but when Borko Ristovski finally had his first save after 11 minutes, the veteran in the Macedonian goal started a really fine performance which made him the best player for his team.
At the same time the Danes seemed to lose a bit of concentration and the fact they had to play large parts of the first half with one or even two players less due to two minutes suspensions, also contributed to the Macedonian team being able to move a bit closer.
Any closer than being three goals down did they not get, though, and at half time the Danes were leading by four, 12:8.
Landin tough on the Macedonians
In spite of a great performance, Ristovski could not cope with his colleague at the other end of the court, Niklas Landin, though. Throughout the entire 60 minutes, Landin kept the same high level between the Danish goalposts.
For parts of the match he was practically impossible to score by. He really came down hard on the Macedonian shooters with an outstanding 46% save rate and was justly awarded Denmark's best player.
”He (Landin) was insane today. He had an awesome attitude out there, and it was not a great day for the Macedonian shooters. Obviously our defense deserves great credit as well," said left back Henrik Mollgaard.
At the beginning of the second half, the Macedonians were still able to stay relatively close to their opponents, but still they did not make it any closer than being three goals behind.
As the second half progressed, then, the Macedonians seemed to run a bit out of resources, while the Danes tightened the grip again.
Thus, Denmark managed to increase their lead to the largest difference in the match, eight goals.
The win brings Denmark in second position in Group A after Austria, who defeated the Czech Republic 30:20 in Sunday´s first match in Herning.
"In front of a crowd like this, losing to Denmark is not that big of a deal. We have to focus on the next two matches (against Austria and Czech Republic), and they will be life or death for us," said assistant coach Stevce Alushovski.
Based on the performance in their opening match, though, the Danes will probably not be content with staying in second place, neither in the group nor in the entire tournament.