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Date: 7/30/2017

The 2017 IHF Men’s Junior (U21) World Championship final sees three-time champions Denmark taking on Spain in the battle for the title, with Spain hoping to continue their exceptional undefeated run through the tournament all the way to the podium – though they can rely on the fact that they will face a tactically well-prepared Scandinavian side in the ultimate match. 

The final takes place after the three/four game, where Germany can claim their second consecutive bronze in the event while France aim to repeat their feat of ranking third as they did at the 2016 European championship in this age category. 

Final: Denmark vs Spain 18:00 local time

While Denmark’s qualification for the final can be considered something of a surprise considering their results at Algeria 2017, which include just three victories in the group phase before they stepped up their game significantly in the knock-out stage, Spain enter the trophy match as the only side with all victories in their record. 

From a historical perspective, Denmark are by far the dominant side, having won three titles and finished on the podium at all but two events over the last two decades. Denmark claimed their first Men’s Junior World Championship title in 1997 before raising the trophy again in 1999 and 2005, finished as runners-up in 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2015, and ranked third in 2007. The only blemishes on their otherwise extremely impressive 20-year record are the 13th-place finish in 2013 and sixth in 2001. 

Spain have never won the trophy in this age category, but have been denied the satisfaction of topping the podium five times, losing the final in 1987, 1989, 1995, 2001 and 2013. They have never won the bronze medal either, ranking fourth at the very first event in 1977, then again in 1991 and 2003. 

These teams have never met in a medal match at the Men’s Junior World Championship, making the 2017 a historic first. 

Naturally the results at previous events have little bearing on what will happen when the teams take the court on Sunday 30 July at Salle Harcha in Algiers – but if Spain do win the match it will hold great meaning for the Spanish Handball Federation and nation. The success of the 1996 generation is already a positive sign for the future of the Spain men’s team, as it is for Denmark, who have now made it to the final at four of the last five events. 

These 1996-born squads last met at a major international tournament at the 2015 IHF Men’s Youth (U19) World Championship, where Spain knocked Denmark out of the trophy contest in the quarter-final stage with a 23:18 win. Spain went on to finish fourth at Russia 2015, while Denmark ranked seventh. That result, along with the comparative records so far at Algeria 2017, appear to show an edge for Spain ahead of this encounter. 

Spain also count two players from the Russia 2015 All-star Team in their midst: goalkeeper Xoan Ledo and left back Daniel Dujshebaev. Both have been key in their campaign in Algeria, particularly Ledo, who has not only proved a consistent threat between the posts but has made saves in the most crucial moments that have steered Spain to victory in the knock-out stage matches. 

Dujshebaev has certainly been dangerous, but Spain’s squad is deep and coach Isidoro Martinez can rely on a strong starting side as well as a solid bench. Right wing Aleix Gomez enters the final as the third top scorer at Algeria 2017, with 48 goals, behind Tunisia’s Skander Zaied with 68 and Denmark’s Lasse Moeller with 65. 

Ledo is the fourth-ranked goalkeeper at Algeria 2017 with 88 saves at 37.4%, while Denmark’s Simon Gade is third with 90 saves at 32.7%. 

Aside from the individual statistics, Spain’s performance so far at Algeria 2017 would appear to put the odds in their favour – but no team can afford to underestimate the side that eliminated the 2015 Youth world champion squad. Spain coach Martinez will need to be prepared with his tactics, considering Denmark played the entire semi-final match against France using seven-on-six, which forced the France’s defence work extremely hard throughout the 60 minutes. 

Bronze-medal match: France vs Germany 15:30 local time

Both France and Germany were devastated to leave the court on Saturday 29 July without a ticket to the final match, as France lost 34:37 to Denmark and Germany were defeated 21:26 after two tough 60-minute battles. 

As this France squad had won the 2015 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship and followed that with a bronze medal at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2016 last summer, while Germany began their Algeria 2017 campaign as runners-up at the European championship, both were favourites to reach the medal round and did not disappoint. Both sides entered the semi-final undefeated, though France recorded one draw in the group phase, against Slovenia. 

France had a difficult semi-final playing against a seven-on-six tactic employed by their Scandinavian opponents, but they did exceptionally well to keep the score level through to the final minutes when Denmark pulled away. Germany were either equal or trailing just behind Spain through most of their match, and could do little to counter Spain’s performance toward the final buzzer. 

Though both will undoubtedly have been disappointed after Saturday’s matches, the motivation to claim a medal and not leave Algeria empty handed will be strong. If France win the bronze medal, it will be the third in their history after 1997 and 2013, while if it is Germany who celebrate at the final whistle, it will be their second – and a consecutive third rank for the nation as they beat Egypt at the 2015 edition in this very play-off. 

Considering the impressive performance from France and Germany in their Algeria 2017 campaigns, a thrilling bronze-medal match can be expected.