So it’s come to this. The final Friday of the World Championship and four teams remain to chase the ultimate prize. France have gone home, licking their wounds and looking to rebuild after a decade of domination. They’re joined by others who maybe thought they might stand a chance: bye bye Germany and Russia. Of the four who remain you could probably have picked Spain and Denmark beforehand but look at the Balkan duo of Croatia and Slovenia. They’ve both gone through by winning every game and they’re kept apart again today. This could be a day of glory or heartbreak for the former bits of Yugoslavia. (As ever: if you’re in the UK there is no TV coverage. You’ll need to subscribe at http://www.livehandball.tv or have money in a Bet365 account and access their livestreaming).
6.15pm (UK) Spain v Slovenia
These two sides have met four times competitively and Spain have won all four with an average margin of victory of 8 points. History clearly counts for nothing here though. Slovenia are nicely solid at the back and do things in a smart way when they move forward. They’re also not dependent on one player displaying effective rotation throughout matches. They don’t seem to cop too many penalties either. So whilst they’re not the most thrilling team you’ll ever see they will be hard to beat as their resolve throughout the match against Russia showed. Spain, on the other hand, are all about dynamism. Get the home crowd cheering, pounce on the fastbreaks and defend robustly when necessary. Spain had to come from behind against Germany but ended the match looking like champions. Despite the Slovenians’ undoubted ability and strengths it will feel like a surprise if Spain don’t qualify for the final today.
The bookies say: Spain by 4; Handball Views says: Closer than that but a Spain win
8.30pm Denmark v Croatia
Croatia set their stall out within a minute against France: Drago Vukovic getting a red card for a decapitation. They ‘kept France honest’ throughout the match from that point on. Some solid goalkeeping at the start from Alilovic helped Croatia establish a lead and then, even though the French defence began to restrict Croatia to distance shots, the defence was strong enough to keep them ahead. Nine goals from Domagoj Duvnjak also helped. Croatia will need the same strength and ‘grit’ again today. Denmark are frighteningly good when they click but prone to losing their concentration. They managed to turn a comfortable lead over Hungary in the quarter final into a match requiring a decisive throw from Henrik Møllgaard to douse a Hungarian revival. There’s no doubting their chops, just their focus. History is no guide: 15 meetings this decade and it’s as even a split as possible. This could be very interesting.
The bookies say: Denmark by 1; Handball Views says: Croatia, just.
The final will be on Sunday; losers get to play again for bronze tomorrow.