Today’s ‘Round of 16’ matches …

Dragan Gajić – top scorer for Slovenia in the championship

Day 2 of the knock out stages and all eyes are probably on Serbia v Spain.  But there are other matches too.  So here’s our look at them all.

6pm (UK) Slovenia v Egypt
It’s not the most glamourous tie of the round and it should be a routine win for Slovenia who qualified with five wins from five.  Egypt did enough in their group by taking a draw against Algeria and then progressing on goal difference.  Slovenia have a European second place to their name (in 2004) and reached the quarter finals last year but they’ve never finished better than 10th in the Worlds.  Egypt took third place in last year’s African championship but can boast being the only non-European side to reach a World Championship semi final – unfortunately that was over a decade ago.  This should be a relatively straightforward progression for Slovenia.
Winner plays Russia

6pm Serbia v Spain
Hands up who saw this match appearing as early as the Round of 16?  This match will be a proper test for the title credentials of the #hispanos.  Spain have won the last two encounters between the sides (both last year, in Olympic qualifying and then at the Games themselves) and away from their hometown venues Serbia are much less dominant.  In their group they lost to both Poland and Slovenia.  But then, Spain similarly fell to Croatia in their last match.  I’m going to go with Spain but I think it will be close.
Winner plays Germany

8.30pm Hungary v Poland
Two efficient but strangely uninspiring sides meet in the late game in Barcelona.  Poland made it to the World Championship final in 2007 and were third in 2009 but now stand 11th in the IHF rankings.  They have grit – coming from behind to beat Serbia – and are also good at closing out matches.  If you know Hungary at all you’ll know that they routinely finish 4th in the Olympics.  In the World Championship they don’t often make it that far – a semi final and losing final spot being their tally.  There’s no shame in having lost to Croatia and Spain in the group stages and for no reason other than they’ve been stretched more by their opposition I’m going with Hungary today.
Winner plays Denmark

8.30pm Croatia v Belarus
Croatia have two Olympic and one World titles; Belarus have two World Championship appearances.  This is a proper top qualifier v bottom qualifier match up and any result other than a comfortable win for the Croatians will see me buying and wearing a Belarus top as punishment.
Winner plays France

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