Andreas Palicka was visibly upset. Reaching the European Championship final with Sweden’s handball players was a small sporting miracle for the world-class goalkeeper, as the tournament seemed to have ended prematurely for the 35-year-old after a positive corona test at the beginning of the week.
“It’s actually an unbelievable scenario. The week was mentally exhausting – not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Palicka, describing his feelings after the record European champions’ 34:33 semi-final win over Olympic champions France. “Luckily I tested negative and was able to play.”
Sweden wants revenge against Spain
In 2018, the Drei-Kronen-Team was already very close to the fifth European Championship triumph after 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2002. But the final was clearly lost with 23:29. The opponent then as now: Spain. “We want to take revenge. I hope our time will come. It’s going to be a huge game and it feels great to be a part of it,” said backcourt player Jonathan Caarlsbogard from Bundesliga club TBV Lemgo before the gold duel with the Defending champions this Sunday (6:00 p.m.) in Budapest.
The fact that Palicka can be there strengthens the self-confidence of the World Cup runner-up. “He helps us a lot. Not only on the field but also off it. He’s our captain, a great person and a great goalkeeper,” said Caarlsbogard.
With a monster save against Ludovic Fabregas just seconds before the end, Palicka saved his team from extra time in Friday night’s thriller semi-final against France. “I just threw myself against it,” he described the decisive scene.
Goalkeeper Palicka shines in the semifinals
It was the culmination of a gala performance, which he also garnished with a European Championship record. The long-standing Bundesliga professional, who played for THW Kiel from 2008 to 2015 and just ended his contract with the Rhein-Neckar Löwen in 2016, scored three goals. No goalkeeper before him has managed such a feat. “When you come out of isolation like that, that’s great, of course,” praised director Jim Gottfridsson, who was also outstanding.
Palicka had to go into quarantine last Monday after a positive test. A difficult time of uncertainty and powerlessness followed, which almost drove him mad, especially in the main round final against Norway. “Watching this game against Norway alone in the hotel room on TV – I’ve never felt so bad. Things flew and I jumped on the bed like a ten-year-old,” said Palicka. In the end, thanks to an incredible comeback in the final minutes, Sweden still managed to win and reach the semifinals.
Now the Scandinavians are even reaching for their first title in 20 years. Palicka is confident that the long dry spell is finally over. “There is unbelievable morale in this team. If someone can’t pull off their performance, someone else will. This team consists only of heroes,” said the veteran. They finally want to step out of the shadow of the golden generation of handball player Magnus Wislander of the century.