A Fitting End to a Very Evenly Matched Group

Main Round Group II was the most evenly matched Main Round Group in recent memory and perhaps ever. The first match on the last day was a seemingly meaningless match between Macedonia and Serbia. Both teams had no chance to go to the finals, but a Serbian victory gave the Serbs the morale victory of a 2-2-1 record and 5 points in the Group, to tie them temporarily with Germany at 2nd place in the Group.

Next came the Germany – Denmark game. The math was fairly simple for both teams. A win for either team would grant them 1st place in the group and a ticket to the semifinals. Denmark would also advance with a draw. But a loss for either team, put them at the mercy of Norway – Poland game to follow. In the end Denmark won a see-saw battle 27-25 to advance.

This left Germany with one back door way into the Semifinals. A draw result between Norway and Poland would result in a four way (Germany, Serbia, Norway, Poland) log jam for 2nd place with 5 points each. And Germany would advance with a +6 goal differential to Poland’s +5, Norway’s 0 and Serbia’s -11). For Norway and Poland the mission was clear, win and they were in. Lose and go home.

In the first half Norway and Poland traded leads, but in the 2nd half Norway led most of the way by 1 or 2 goals. With a two goal lead in the final minutes they looked to be on their way, but Poland stormed back to tie the score 30-30 with 33 seconds to play. Norway advanced the ball up court and took a timeout with 14 seconds to play.

At this juncture, three teams could envision a trip to the Semis. Norway had perhaps the best chance with a man advantage (they had pulled their goalie) and 14 seconds to score a goal and win the game. Germany, watching in their hotel rooms cheering on Poland to play defense and for the refs to blow a 9 meter penalty to expend the last 14 seconds with no clear shot and a draw result. Poland, however, needed a miracle with only 14 seconds, the only way they were going to win was a quick turnover and goal.

This video shows how it unfolded: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x866it_m-2009-polskanorwegia-krol-artur-si_sport