ZAGREB (Reuters) - Holders Germany and fellow heavyweights Spain hit the ground running at the European handball championship in Croatia with emphatic wins in their opening games at the 16-nation tournament on Saturday.
The Germans brushed aside Montenegro 32-19 and Spain handed the Czech Republic a 32-15 mauling, while Olympic champions Denmark beat Hungary 32-25 after pulling away in the last 20 minutes of a high-tempo contest.
In the day’s most dramatic match, Macedonia edged Slovenia 25-24 in a clash of two former Yugoslav republics after Dejan Manaskov scored eight goals and Kiril Lazarov added seven for the winners.
Germany fired on all cylinders against Montenegro and were in cruise control after a 9-1 streak gave them a 13-3 lead in the closing stages of the first half.
Prolific winger Uwe Gensheimer netted nine goals from 10 shots and Paul Drux added five for the reigning champions.
Spain also enjoyed plain sailing, having stifled out the Czechs with tight defence which opened up plenty of fast breaks at the other end of the court.
The Spaniards never took their feet off the pedal and their deep roster produced an array of scorers, as Valero Rivera, Raul Entrerrios and Ferran Sole led the way with five goals each.
Denmark forced Hungary into submission in the last third of the game, despite having pack leader Mikkel Hansen ejected for three two-minute suspensions.
Up to that point, Hungary had matched the Danes in every department but could no longer keep up with the torrid pace even after Hansen, who scored six goals, was confined to watching the rest of the match from the jam-packed stands in Varazdin.
Backcourt shooter Rasmus Lauge took over the mantle from Hansen in the closing stages and finished as the game’s top scorer with seven goals.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Christian Radnedge