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Photo: Ómar Ingi trying to break down the Danish defense (HSÍ / Facebook page).

COVID-hit Iceland loses to Denmark at European Handball Championship

The Icelandic men’s national handball team suffered a defeat at the hands of Denmark last night. Six Icelandic players tested positive for COVID-19 the night before the game, the first match of the European Handball Championship’s main round. 

Rough news following a smooth start

Following a positive start to the European Handball Championship, which saw the Icelandic men’s national handball team win all three of its matches in the preliminary round, the squad suffered a four-point defeat to Denmark last night. The match was the first game of the tournament’s main round.  

On the evening before the game, news broke that three Icelandic players had tested positive for COVID-19: goalkeeper Björgvin Páll Gústavsson, centre-back Elvar Örn Jónsson, and left back Ólafur Andrés Guðmundsson. More bad news broke on the following morning when it was revealed that captain Aron Pálmarson and winger Bjarki Már Elísson had also tested positive. The final blow arrived just a few hours before the game against Denmark; centre-back Gísli Þorgeir Kristjánsson also tested positive. 

The players have little to no symptoms, according to reports.

Critical of tournament organisers

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Bjarki Már Elísson criticised the tournament organisers for not doing enough to minimise the risk of infection:  

“We’ve been doing everything in our power to avoid infection; we’ve been holed up in our hotels since January 2,” who added that the team had been prepared for the worst after the first three players tested positive.”

“The conditions at the hotel are such that there are tourists and other guests staying alongside us, which, personally, I find absurd. But, of course, there are fans in the stadiums, and we’re doing interviews, so you’re always at some risk. Perhaps it was to be expected,” Bjarki continued. 

“I suppose what’s most disappointing, however, is that tournament organisers didn’t provide better conditions. Ensure that we were more isolated, that there aren’t other people staying at the hotels; all of the teams are eating in the same places, too. This allows infection to spread, and it was expected, but it is also extremely disappointing.”

A tough schedule ahead

Iceland will play its second match of the main round tomorrow, Saturday, January 22. The team will face off against France, the reigning Olympic Champions, with Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson expected to be in the stands. The following two games are against Croatia on Monday (January 24) and Montenegro on Wednesday (January 26). 

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