TOKYO: Bahrain endured a last-second agony but the world of handball has praised the team’s performance against Sweden, one of Europe’s top teams and favourites to win an Olympic medal.
Sweden beat Bahrain 32-31 in their Group B opener as the world championship runners-up edged ahead with 52 seconds left through Albin Lagergren’s goal, before Andreas Palicka saved Mohamed Ahmed’s penalty.
“They played aggressive (with a) high defence we normally don’t see in Europe that much, so it’s harder for our players... to adjust in one game,” Sweden left wing Hampus Wanne said.
“It’s good we scored 32 goals, but we let in 31... a lot of credit to Bahrain, they did a great job in defence and attack.”
Bahrain led throughout the second half, but Sweden’s experience paid off exactly when it mattered the most.
With 52 seconds to go in the game, the European side went back in the lead (32-31), thanks to a goal from Albin Lagergren.
Bahrain got the ball again and coach Aron Kristjansson called a time-out to streamline the attack. It all went as planned, with back Mohamed Mohamed receiving a penalty after he was fouled by Felix Claar.
Faced with a flawless Mohamed Ahmed, Sweden’s goalkeeper Andreas Palicka guessed right, flicked his body to the left and saved the shot, basically gifting his team the win and two crucial points ahead of the game against hosts Japan tomorrow.
Ahmed was Bahrain’s best scorer with six goals.
Bahrain will next play fellow debutants Portugal tomorrow.
Meanwhile, world champions Denmark started their bid to capture back-to-back Olympic gold medals by thrashing hosts Japan 47-30 in their opener at the Yoyogi National Stadium. European champions Spain pipped Germany 28-27 after Philipp Weber failed to convert a free throw towards the end of the match, while dark horse Egypt defeated Portugal 37-31.
Earlier, France playmaker Nikola Karabatic, back after seven months out due to a knee injury, inspired the two-times Olympic champions to a 33-27 win over Argentina.
Norway made a slow start and trailed Group A rivals Brazil in the first half before finding their groove to prevail 27-24 for their first win at the Games since 1972, as Sander Sagosen top-scored with eight goals.