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BARCELONA, Spain, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Hosts Spain and European title holders Denmark advanced to the men's world handball championship final after emphatic wins over their respective opponents on Friday.
Spain eased to a 26-22 success against surprise packages Slovenia and Denmark romped to an impressive 30-24 defeat of 2003 winners Croatia to set up a mouth-watering clash in Barcelona's Palau San Jordi on Sunday.
Croatia and Slovenia, neighbours from the former Yugoslavia, will renew their rivalry when they meet in the bronze medal match on Saturday.
Roared on by a passionate 13,000 home crowd, Spain scored four unanswered goals midway through the first half and six midway through the second to carve out an insurmountable 23-15 lead against a youthful Slovenian side.
Middle back Jure Dolenec scored seven goals for Slovenia and right wing Gasper Margoc added six but the rest of the team could not keep up with their efforts as the depth of Spain's roster made the difference in a gruelling, physical clash.
"I am very pleased because I have three bronze medals in the world championships but I had never qualified for a final," Spain's Yugoslav-born goalkeeper Arpad Sterbik said.
"We still haven't really taken it all in. Tomorrow when we wake up we will be truly aware that we are playing in a final on Sunday."
Spain, who won the title in 2005, will have a chance to avenge their defeat by Denmark in last year's European championship semi-final when the Danes edged them 25-24 and went on to win EURO 2012 after beating hosts Serbia in the final.
The Scandinavians exacted sweet revenge on Croatia for a crushing 11-goal defeat in the 2012 Olympics after romping to an early 6-1 lead which ultimately proved decisive in their clash of the titans.
The Croatians, who lost their third successive semi in as many major events, played catch-up all evening and although they cut the deficit to two goals several times, crisp finishing by Denmark from all angles kept them on the back foot throughout the contest.
"This was a very poor performance and we threw away all the good work we did in this tournament in the opening few minutes of this game," Croatia coach Slavko Goluza told the country's national television.
"We had several walking wounded as the torrid exertions took their toll but it's no excuse because Denmark fully deserved to win and took advantage of all our mistakes."
Outstanding winger Anders Eggert Jensen led Denmark with nine goals from 11 shots while playmaker Domagoj Duvnjak was Croatia's top scorer with five. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Additional reporting by Mark Elkington in Madrid; Editing by Mark Meadows; email@example.com; +44 20 7542 7933; Reuters Messaging:; firstname.lastname@example.org)