With the 2015 World Championships in handball under way in Qatar, the Danes are poised and ready to end their World Cup gold medal drought. So, is this the year they finally win the trophy that has eluded them for so many years?
The Danes find themselves in a tough Group D along with Poland, Russia, Germany, Argentina and Saudi Arabia. They take on the Argentine underdogs in their first match tonight at 19:00. The game will be shown on TV2.
”I will never underestimate an opponent and they [Argentina] have shown before that they can be very dangerous in their first game in a tournament. They have a very aggressive defence with some very competent players,” Gudmundur Gudmundsson, Denmark's coach, told Metroxpress newspaper.
The Danes have been among the top teams in the world for the past 12 years or so, racking up six European Championship medals (two golds, a silver and three bronzes), but so far the World Championship title has escaped them as they finished third in 2007 before losing two consecutive finals in 2011 and 2013. They also lost the final in 1967.
Is this the year?
Two-time European Champion and Danish handball legend Lars Christiansen believes that Denmark has the quality to go all the way this time, but it will be up to the team's Icelandic coach to get the squad playing as a unit.
"Gudmundur Gudmundsson has perhaps the best team in the world and he will have to get them to shine,” Christiansen told Metroxpress.
”The most important is that our keeper has a good tournament. Niklas Landin is the world's best keeper when he's on form.”
Christiansen also pointed to a strong defence and an in-form Mikkel Hansen as being being the key to any potential success.
Fact Box: A beginners' guide to handball
Handball may be one of the most popular sports in Denmark with about 150,000 active and passive club members, but the game might perplex the uninitiated. Here's a quick and basic 'what you need to know about handball' list:
– Each team consists of seven players (six outfield players and one keeper) and a standard match consists of 2×30 minutes (with an extra 2×5 period added in case the score is tied after regular time)
– The ball is coated with resin to give the players a better grip of the ball, which is not allowed to touch an outfield player's foot at any time (keepers may save using their feet)
– The goals are surrounded by a 6-metre zone where only the defending goalkeeper is permitted. Goals are scored by throwing the ball from outside that zone while jumping into it. Players must release the ball before their feet touch as they land inside the zone
– As in ice hockey, the keeper may be pulled in favour of an additional outfield player
– A team can lose possession of the ball if they play too passively and a judge will raise his hand in the air to indicate that the attacking team has about five seconds to score before the opposition is granted possession of the ball
– When in possession of the ball, players may only take three steps with the ball in their hand, unless they bounce it on the ground, giving them a further three steps. Too many steps will result in the opposition getting the ball
– Players can be dismissed for two minutes for fouls, during which time their team must play a man down. Three dismissals will lead to a red card and no further participation in the match, as will two yellow cards
– Players can also be kicked out of the match if they attack a player in a way that endangers that player's health. If a player is fouled and stripped of an obvious scoring opportunity, the team is awarded a one-on-one 'penalty shot'. Other fouls can result in three-metre shots where the defending team can set up a wall of players
– Players can be substituted at any time and there is no limit