It was the hour of surprises at the EHF EURO 2016. Right when Norway beat defending champions France in Krakow to reach the semi-final, Germany achieved the same in Wroclaw when they held down Denmark 25:23 (12:13).
It was Germany's fifth consecutive win at this championship, at the same time it is the fifth time that the team reached the semi-final at an EHF EURO event.
“I am just very excited after this great fight. Denmark was the strong opponent we expected, but we played the style that had made us strong in the last matches," said Germany goalkeeper Andreas Wolff after the game.
While the German players danced on the court after the final whistle, the Danes were visibly in a state of shock.
They had not lost a game at this event to date, but they face a disappointing finish now.
Only if Spain do not beat Russia in the final main round match on Wednesday night, Denmark will follow Germany to Krakow, otherwise they play for the 5th rank and stay in Wroclaw.
Germany's semi-final opponent is not yet known and depends on the final result in the match between Poland and Croatia in Krakow.
Despite seven goals of their super star Mikkel Hansen, who was also awarded player of the match, Denmark let a two-goal lead slip their hands in the dying minutes, and Germany scored the last four goals of the match.
The atmosphere on the stands was brilliant throughout the entire match, as the fans from Denmark and Germany with their shouting and singing almost battled it out like players on court.
Backed by some crucial saves of goalkeeper Niklas Landin, Denmark had the better start to the game, they led 5:3 after nine minutes and 8:7 after 17.
But who thought that the injury-hit German team, that had to replace team captain Steffen Weinhold as well as Christian Dissinger, would surrender, was completely wrong.
Their defence stood strong, goalkeeper Andreas Wolff once more produced an impressive performance and Steffen Fäth was on fire on the left back, scoring five of his six goals in the first half.
Fäth was the leader of the German team in its best period before the break, when they turned the 7:8 in a 10:8 lead.
But this was the wake-up call for Denmark: Landin found his rhythm in goal and his teammates benefitted from his saves as they converted the subsequent counter attacks.
Courtesy of four unanswered goals, Denmark led 12:10 and took a 13:12 lead into the half-time break.
Germany started into the second half with three unanswered goals themselves to gain the lead again; the match became a tougher fight in defence and both goalkeepers were in strong form.
The Danes were more organised in defence, while Germany played with more courage in attack – so both sides almost neutralised themselves, with no team having the opportunity carve out a substantial lead.
After they had been trailing 13:14, Denmark turned the tide again, and led 18:16 after 42 minutes.
The Danes were more still efficient with their counter attacks, but Germany continously scored from the backcourt and furthermore they took Mikkel Hansen out of the game by a man-marking him – with ten minutes left on the clock the score stood at 21:21.
Then goals of Hans Lindberg and Mikkel Hansen increased the Danish hopes – but still nothing was decided.
Wolff saved three shots, and Germany levelled the result again at 23:23. The tension could be felt in Wroclaw, the fans from both sides went crazy.
Two-and-a-half minutes before the end, Tobias Reichmann’s penalty shot for 24:23 turned the roller coaster around once more.
When Fabian Wiede netted in for 25:23, the German dream was close to become reality, but finally two Wolff saves made them jump for joy, booking their ticket to Krakow.
“Germany did a good job in this tough game with changing leads," said Denmark coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson. "We did not play well most of the time, and in the last minute we really got tired."