I must admit that I was a bit nervous before the final on Sunday in the handball world championships for men.
The Danish team had won its first eight matches, including a spectacular win over the odds-on favorites from Croatia in the semifinal, and the entire Danish sports press more or less agreed that the final against the host nation, Spain, was a mere formality.
Which was the cause of my unrest. Experience tells me that when the Danish sports press becomes too cocksure and assures its readers that victory is assured in advance, the team usually loses, whether it be the handball, football, baseball or for that matter wrestling team. Sometimes the team loses quite badly to the supposed “underdog”.
However, nothing had prepared me for the team suffering the worst defeat in any world championship final ever. 35-19 to Spain, do the math. Denmark lost by 16 goals. The explanations and excuses were many, and predictable. Fact is, the team had a collective off-day which is sub-optimal in any situation, and especially in a final for the world championship. One reason may be that the coach, Ulrik Wilbek, was sick on the day and had to stay at the hotel.
But if nothing had prepared me for the devastating defeat, I knew immediately when I saw the result what the press’ reaction would be:
The team was the worst in the history of the world, and the coach was a disaster. The fact that he had been sick and couldn’t stand on the sideline was nothing short of high treason.
The eight victories against Qatar, Russia, Chile, Iceland, F.Y.R Macedonia, Tunisia, Hungary, and Croatia were forgotten. The only match the journalists remembered was the last one. Which is typical of sports journalists.
I think it would suit the sports press to remember two things: 1) No match, especially a world championship final, is won before it has been played, and 2) Before you can lose a final, you have to actually QUALIFY for it! Which the team did in a convincing way.
It’s too easy to criticize someone for not going all the way and winning the gold medals, while “forgetting” that they did take silver.