Denmark book date with France after rejecting Poland
After a dramatic game, Denmark claimed the second spot in the finals and earned themselves a rematch with France after defeating Poland 29-28 in overtime.
Poland were very much aware of Lase Svan on the wing, forcing Denmark to plan most of their attacks at the center of the perimeter. Those attacks were led by Mikkel Hansen and complemented by Morten Olsen.
Despite Denmark's solid movement, they struggled in their passing at times, playing a bit too relaxed and forcing a handful of clumsy turnovers to Poland.
Making life a little more difficult for Denmark was Karol Bielecki, who refused to be shut down by Denmark's defense. The Polish left back scored four goals in the first half.
After trailing for the entire first half, Poland finally stuck their nose ahead early in the second. They still had some difficulty in coordinating defensive positioning. The Danes' fluid movement around the perimeter often forced Poland to scramble around and push one or two players forward to offset the potential poach from the back position.
Then there was Hansen, whose incredible arm strength is more than capable of scoring from beyond the nine meter mark.
But, Bielecki has quite the, too, and managed to match Hansen shot-for-shot in what looked to be a battle of wills between two of the game's very best left backs.
Despite these two stars' incredible performances, Poland's rotational goalie was [arguably] more superb. Since being substituted on the court, Piotr Wyszomirski saved 48% of shots faced.
The match was beginning to grow in anxiety for all players involved - one team a gold medal contender from the onset of the competition. Another: a team surpassing expectations of reaching the quarterfinals (and a team that barely managed to do that).
With only two minutes remaining, nothing separated the two.
And nothing separated the two in the final minute: excellent movement on the perimeter benefited both teams, and the game would need extra time to decide who'd advance to Sunday's final.
Denmark were the first to strike, with Hansen leading them to a three goal lead at the end of the first five minutes of extra time, leaving Poland with a huge undertaking.
Poland took the first step in the first minute, bringing it back to within two. A couple of Danish turnovers gave Poland a chance to take the next step, but Bielecki made an ill-advised shot that was easily taken care of. But a strange final 15 seconds saw Poland stay back rather than look for the steal, gifting Denmark to run down the clock.
France one win away from third straight gold, down Germany 29-28
France survived a hard-fought German comeback to make their way back into the gold medal final on Sunday.
France were eager to pull away from Germany early, using their superior fluidity in defense to stretch the German defense thin on the wings.
One of France's main defensive strategies early on was guarding Patrick Wiencek in the center, who's proved to be a viable scoring threat. Wiencek failed to record a single scoring attempt in the first half.
Uwe Gensheimer was a bit of a different story, though. Wiencek being covered in the center opened up space for Gensheimer to cut in the wing - he scored seven goals in the first half.
France punished Germany in the center of the court on the opposite end, too, with Luka and Nikola Karabatic forcing their way into that six meter line. Daniel Narcisse's versatility added to Germany's defensive headaches.
France finally made good on their promise to pull away from Germany, opening up a six goal lead in the second half. It quickly stretched to seven after Thierry Omeyer made two saves that led to two empty net goals in less than 30 seconds.
Gensheimer continued to pose serious problems for France, though, and is a major reason why Germany began a comeback to bring it back within one goal in the final five minutes of play.
Julius Kuhn also began to pressure the French defense that suddenly began to look a bit disheveled, pushing them back from the center position. A goal by Tobias Reichmann from the wing position completed the seven goal comeback in the final minute of play.
France held the ball in the final 20 seconds of play, looking to find a way to avoid overtime or - worse- a stinging last second defeat. A beautiful strike by Narcisse made its way past Andreas Wolff in the closing seconds of play, bringing France back into very familiar territory on Sunday.