HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) – Olympic champions Denmark stormed into the world handball championship final after 12 goals from Mikkel Hansen inspired them to an impressive 38-30 win over holders France in a lopsided semi-final on Friday.
IHF Handball World Championship – Germany & Denmark 2019 – Semi Final – Germany v Norway – Barclaycard Arena, Hamburg, Germany – January 25, 2019 Germany fans before the match REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
The Danes, who stretched their perfect tournament record to nine successive wins, will face either co-hosts Germany or fellow Scandinavians Norway who meet in the other semi-final at 1930 GMT.
Either way, they will be strong favorites to clinch their maiden world title on home ground in Herring on Sunday, where France will meet the losers of the second semi in the bronze medal match.
Having beaten the French to claim the 2016 Olympic title, the Danes inflicted another painful defeat on their rivals after left back 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 rear guard 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 French strategy to occasionally bench their goalkeeper in order to attack with an extra man backfired as they conceded four times into an empty net, with Denmark keeper Niklas Landin scoring twice from his own area.
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 fight back 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