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Iceland Makes History to Roar into Men's Handball Final
    2008-08-22 22:51:55     Xinhua
Bull-like Iceland thrashed Spain 36-30 in the semifinal of Beijing Olympic men's handball event on Friday, securing their first handball medal in Olympics.

The Icelanders, ninth finisher in 2004 Athens Games, mounted a flying start with five unanswered goals in the opening minutes to stun the Spaniard. Although the Spanish side, bronze medalist in 1996 and 2000 Games, evened the score twice before the break, they never managed a lead throughout the match.

Acer shooter Snorri Steinn Gudjonsson snatched six goals in the first half to give Iceland a 17-15 lead, topping the over-all scoring tally with 44 goals in seven games. Left back Logi Geirsson also added six after the break to give Iceland a stylish triumph.

"Spain is a very good team and we had to do our best to beat them. We are very happy to enter the final. We will celebrate for one hour and after that we have to concentrate on the next game, "said Icelandic coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson, most of whose player burst into joyful tears after the match.

Having taken part in Olympic handball tournaments for five times, Iceland's best placing is the fourth in 1996 in Barcelona. This landmark victory will ensure their first Olympic handball medal and give them the chance to fight for the first-ever Olympic gold for the North European country.

Talking about the coming final, Gudmundsson said, "There will be no special pressure for us. We have played well in the Olympics and we deserve the final. It is not a coincidence. The chance(for a gold) is there, but we have to try our best to seize it."

In Sunday's final, Iceland will took on France, who dethroned highly favored reigning champion Croatia 25-23 in the other semifinal. French right back Cedric Burdet ignited the team with five goals from five shots in the first half, giving the fifth placer at Athens a 12-11 lead by the break. And center back Daniel Narcisse netted in six points in the second half, including two in the final minutes to seal the final berth for France.

"We knew the game would be tough. Defence is the key to our victory. We could have enjoyed an easier win but for the nerves from the semifinals and some slapdash shots during the match,"said French coach Claude Onesta in a post-match conference.

The tight match witnessed seventeen draws from the two sides and came to a deadlock with six minutes on the clock, when France led 24-22 and no team managed a goal in the following five minutes.

Narcisse's diving shot broke the deadlock and widened the gap to three goals, while left wing Goran Sprem's last minute goal was too late to save the Croatians.

Participating in Olympic Games twice and winning two gold medals in 1996 and 2004, Croatia is the most efficient team in Olympic history. However, their legend ended in Beijing and they have to fight for the bronze against Spain.

Poland and Russia will battle for the fifth place, after the two teams edged out South Korea and Denmark respectively. However, none of the four squads showed enough enthusiasm towards the placement matches.

"We didn't make the semifinal, so it's just mentally very hard to focus and concentrate on a placement match. We lost a lot of strength in the quarterfinal against Spain," said South Korean 2.03-meter right back Yoon Kyung-shin.

"For the Polish team, the Olympic Games are over. After we lost in the quarterfinals it has been difficult to concentrate," said Polish right back Marcin Lijewski, whose team outgunned South Korea 29-26.

Lijewski's indifference was shared by Russian right back Konstantin Igropulo. "I feel nothing about the match. It doesn't mean anything to me." "These five to eight placement matches are just disappointment matches. I really don't know the value of them, so today I just told them to go out and fight," said Denish coach Ulrik Wilbek, whose team lost to Russia 27-28.

"Neither team wanted to play. It's totally pointless. No teams care about standings if they don't make the semifinals,"echoed Bo Spellerberg of Denmark.


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The friendliness of the Beijing people
The Water Cube and other Olympic venues
The Forbidden City
The Great Wall
Beijing "siheyuan" (Chinese traditional courtyard houses)
Peking Opera
Wangfujing Street
Beijing Roast Duck