By Tom Pilcher
LONDON (Reuters) - Hungary pipped Beijing silver medallists Iceland with a 34-33 extra-time win in the quarter-finals on Wednesday to give themselves a chance of a first men's Olympic handball medal.
Goalkeeper Nandor Fazekas saved a Snorri Steinn Gudjonsson penalty with seconds left of normal time and Mate Lekai levelled the scores at 27-27 with two seconds remaining.
The giant Laszlo Nagy top-scored with nine goals to take Hungary, four-times fourth-placed finishers in previous Games, to a semi-final against either European champions Denmark or three-times runners-up Sweden.
The Scandinavians face off after reigning champions France take on 2008 bronze medallists Spain, while twice-winners Croatia, unbeaten so far at these Games, play outsiders Tunisia.
Standing at 2.09 metres and with a leap like a fish out of water, Nagy's irresistible power and ferocious left-arm throws proved the key to unlocking Iceland's robust defence in extra-time, scoring five of his team's seven goals.
He said good fortune was more important, acknowledging Fazekas's intervention in the closing stages and then frantic teamwork to supply Lekai with the ball.
"Luck was with us, we have to realise that. But we have a good goalkeeper capable of stopping penalties which he did," said the 31-year-old Barcelona captain, adding coach Lajos Mocsai had been a good calming influence on the team.
"He gave us a plan in attack and defence. I think the team was complete today, every player brought a lot to the victory. Now it's time to rest," he said, exhausted.
Iceland's outgoing coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson, hoping to lead the tiny volcanic nation to another Olympic medal after he helped secure the country's first silver since the 1956 Games four years in Beijing, refused to blame Gudjonsson.
"We're all upset. You have to look at the whole game. This is the way sport is, you do or die," he said, with Iceland unbeaten in the group stages and chasing a first Olympic gold medal.
"We dearly wanted to repeat the silver medal of four years ago. I'll now let some other people talk about leading the team onwards," he said, smiling humbly after eight years in charge.
"I've had a fantastic time."
(Editing by Michael Holden and Matt Falloon)