STA, 22 January 2020 - The Slovenian men's handball team made it among the top four teams at the European championships after finishing second in the main round Group II play in Sweden's Malmö. Slovenia will play reigning European champions Spain in the semi-finals on Friday.
It is only the second time in the nation's history the handball team made it to the medal round at European handball championships, following Slovenia's silver medal at home in 2004.
Slovenia entered the main round as an undefeated team in the preliminary group F in Gothenburg, racking up three consecutive wins against Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Slovenians followed up the winning streak with a 30:27 victory over Iceland last Friday, and then suffered their first loss at the tournament on Sunday at the hands of Hungary (28:29).
On Tuesday, Slovenia defeated Portugal 29:24 to secure their first goal at the tournament - a berth in one of the three qualifying tournaments for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Today, Slovenia lost 30:33 to the still undefeated Norway, but had already made it to the semi-finals prior to the match as the main rival for the top two spots, Hungary, lost to Portugal 26:34 earlier today.
Slovenian head coach Ljubomir Vranješ told reporters that "it is a great day for us" and that "this is my best defeat ever", referring to Slovenia having already qualified for the semi-finals before the match.
He said that the tactics for Norway had not been used at all, as the players "put it in the pocket for later", adding that he was saving the energy of his players a little bit for Friday's encounter against Spain.
In the semi-finals, it will be important to be both physically and mentally ready, and "we are going there well prepared and fully focused," Vranješ concluded.
Regardless of the outcome of the medal round in Stockholm, Slovenia will play at one of the three Olympic qualifying tournaments, hosted by France, Germany and Norway between 17 and 19 April.
Only the winner of the ongoing European championships will get the direct ticket for Tokyo from Europe, in addition to the reigning world champions Denmark.