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Poland show their true faces in EHF EURO farewell

REVIEW: The tournament's hosts finished the EHF EURO 2016 on a high following a 26:24 win against Sweden in Wroclaw

Photo: Stephane Pillaud

Player of the match Slawomir Szmal collected 13 saves, including two denied penalties, to lead Poland to a spirited performance, as the EHF EURO 2016 hosts stepped up their game and beat Sweden 26:24 (12:12) in the match for 7th place in Wroclaw.

The match was also the farewell for Michael Biegler at the Polish helm after the German coach had announced his resignation on Thursday, one day after Poland had lost 23:37 to Croatia and missed a spot in the semi-finals.

Przemyslaw Krajewski and Bartosz Konitz scored five goals each to top the scoring sheet of Poland, while Lukas Nilsson was Sweden's top scorer also with five.

If someone had expected a lacklustre display on the court in the consolation round in Wroclaw, they were proven wrong right from the start of the match.

Two days after their defeat to Croatia, Poland visibly tried to regroup for one last time at the EHF EURO to appease their fans, who showed their true loyalty again as only a few seats remained empty in the Centennial Hall.

"First of all, we would like to say thank you to the fans. Not to the ones that are with us when we are winning but to those who stay with us in such moments, after such a defeat against Croatia," said Michal Jurecki. "The atmosphere here in Centennial Hall was great."

Poland started well and Sweden, who had not lost a game in the main round, quickly saw themselves trailing 1:3.

They leveled the score midway in the first half at 5:5, but the hosts recovered quickly and romped into a four-goal lead at 10:6 courtesy of several epic saves by Slawomir Szmal.

It had taken Poland just four minutes to create this gap, but it took them as only as many minutes to squander it – and Sweden then even led briefly in the closing minutes of the first half and the opening part of the second.

While both rivals were racing neck-to-neck towards a thrilling finish, Szmal in the 43rd minutes saved another penalty – his tenth in the tournament, more than any other goalkeeper saved.

In another penalty, shot by Lukas Nilsson 70 seconds before the end, Szmal received vital help from his crossbar and Poland kept a cool heads this time around to protect the narrow 25:24 lead they enjoyed at that stage.

"Based on what we have achieved and showed everyone, we can all be satisfied and proud of our team. We have shown a lot of critics that we are always there when we have to.

"We have played some close games. This tournament was almost only close games, so I think the whole team can be very satisfied," said Sweden's Niclas Ekberg at the end Sweden's campaign at the EHF EURO 2016.

written by Vlado Brindzak / ts