So, the Preliminary Round gives way to the Main Round and it’s starting to become just that bit clearer who’s looking strong in Serbia …
After the first day’s Main Round action it is Montengro who are sitting pretty atop Group I. The Olympic silver-medallists looked to have done enough early on against Hungary to have a comfortable second half – leading 15:10 at the interval. But by the 50th minute the scores were level at 22:22 and it took two late goals from Katarina Bulatovic to give Montenegro the points with a 28:26 victory.
A clear margin of victory was what Romania enjoyed, somewhat surprisingly, against Spain. At one point the Romanians had a ten-point lead before they relaxed a bit – it finished 31:26. Spain’s biggest enemy seemed to be wayward shooting whereas Romania could call on seven goals apiece from Iulia Curea and Cristina Neagu. The result leaves Spain in a difficult position if they want to reach the semi finals – Romania will be looking for momentum.
The final match ended in a draw, which probably pleases no one but is a particular kicker for Germany who should have put the match away after building an early five goal lead. As it was, a frantic final minute in which both teams had potentially match-winning shots blocked, means both can claim either a point won or lost depending on mood. What it does mean is that neither is likely to progress to the semi final stages without something miraculous happening.
In today’s games the Czech Republic need to get something against Denmark if they are to have any hope of the semi finals, Norway and France renew their rivalry, and Serbia and Sweden will both be marking this as a must win game. Handball Views is going for wins for Denmark, Norway and Serbia. It all starts at 3.10pm UK, live on YouTube.
Croatia are making the short journey home, and Iceland the slightly longer journey home, after they both exited Serbia 2012 in the group stages. Croatia lost a close, low-scoring match against Germany with whom they finished level on points whereas the Icelands were gubbed by Russia and leave without getting off zero. The table for the main round now looks like this.
Today’s games finish the preliminary round (and are all live on YouTube in the UK). Norway and Sweden have already qualified.
Group A: 5.15pm (UK) Norway v Ukraine; 7.15pm Serbia v Czech Republic
Group B: 5.15pm Sweden v France; 7.15pm Denmark v Macedonia
Isabelle Gulldén, playing for Viborg
Today’s matches saw a mix of the predictable and the unexpected – and plenty of smiles across Scandinavia at full time. There were wins for Norway, Sweden and Denmark – and the hosts got to join the party as well.
The final standings in Group A may rest on how seriously Norway take their last game. They were off the boil today against Czech Republic, only hitting the front in the final few minutes having trailed throughout, and hanging on thanks to Katrine Haraldsen’s series of superb stops (including two from 7m) at the death. With a more predictable (although well-contested) win for Serbia in the earlier match it means that if Ukraine beat Norway, who have a beat of a reputation of not always being focused in the early rounds, they could qualify for the next stage ahead of the loser of Czech Republic v Serbia. Abacuses may be required but I’ll back the European, World and Olympic champions to render them unnecessary although a repeat performance by Czech goalkeeper Barbora Ranikova might cause the Serbs some nervous moments.
Unless something bizarre happens then Group B is easier to call. Macedonia were off the pace again today and so Sweden were able to make it two wins from two. 8 goals from Linnea Torstensson and 7 via Isabelle Gulldén gave the Swedes a comfortable 26:15 victory. The other match was a bit of a shock with this ‘transition’ Denmark team doing the business against France. The French looked almost unwilling to shoot at the end, despite having pulled their keeper, and so the Danes emerged 28:27 winners. Although a last second shot from France hit the bar but that would have been unfair on the ladies in red. Denmark should beat Macedonia which will render the result of the final match between France and Sweden irrelevant in terms of qualification – although obviously both will want points.
Friday’s matches (predicted victors in bold – all matches live in the UK on YouTube)
Group C: 5.15pm (UK) Hungary v Spain; 7.15pm Croatia v Germany
Group D: 5.05pm Russia v Iceland; 7.15pm Romania v Montenegro
Permeatations (although please understand I may be wrong on all this) Hungary and Spain are through so the final qualifier will come from the Croatia v Germany match. Germany need to overturn a three-goal points difference in the table.
Romania and Montenegro have qualified. If Iceland beat Russia they will progress; a draw or win will be fine for the Russians.
Image: Sasa Boskovic grabbing a female in Serbia 2012
If you’re a fan of Spain or Montenegro then day two of Euro 2012 was a very good day. Those two teams maintained their winning ways and will now be looking forward to the main round. However, if you’re a fan of Germany or Iceland then you might want to look away now as with two losses from two games their tournament may be over very soon.
Before we get to that, let’s get to a nice bit of scandal brewing away. In Norway’s win over Serbia on day one the home coach, Saša Bošković twice interfered with the movement of Norwegian player Linn Sulland. You can read all about it over at Team Handball News and Handball Planet. And if you like your outrage in Norwegian you could always start here.
Back to yesterday’s matches … In Group C, Spain and Croatia played out a tense game in which the Spanish always seemed to have the edge, thanks in major part to seven goals from Marta Mangue. Confusingly Spain were in white and Croatia in red. In the later game, Hungary broke the hearts of a determined Germany side, overcoming a 14:11 half time deficit to run out 24:21 winners – three unanswered goals in the final five minutes ensuring the win. Germany now need to beat Croatia to go through – and by a big margin. That seems unlikely.
Iceland lost, as expected, to Romania but it was a lot closer than anticipated and a lot scrappier too. The Romanians are through though with three points, sitting behind Montenegro who dominated Russia before slipping back at the end. The Olympic silver medallists were up 20:14 at half time and noticeably relaxed in the second half. The winner of the Iceland v Russia match will progress in third place – a draw would put Russia through.
Today’s fixtures with the predicted winners in bold:
Group A: 5.15pm (UK) Serbia v Ukraine; Czech Republic v Norway
Group B: 5.15pm Macedonia v Sweden; Denmark v France
Day one is done and dusted, the predictions of Handball Views are just so much chip paper (or you can see them below, so much for ‘science’) and there was much in the eight games to enjoy – as well as four games today to look forward to.
The most ominous result was Norway’s victory over Serbia. The ladies of Norge have a reputation for starting slow and whilst they were pegged back in the second half they played the first with ruthless efficiency, opening up a five goal lead by the break. They eventually won by two goals 28:26 but that’s presumably their hardest match in this group taken care of. In the other match in Group A, six goals apiece from Iveta Luzumova and Helena Sterbova helped the Czech Republic to a 25:22 win over Ukraine.
In Group B, a Scandinavian duel ended with Sweden coming from behind to beat Denmark. 13:15 down at the break Usain Bolt’s favourite handballers were grateful for 10 goals from Johanna Ahlm (including several from the 7m line) in emerging 27:26 winners. Denmark will be kicking themselves for missed chances and unforced errors. Elsewhere, France brushed aside Macedonia.
Germany and Spain played out a tight game in Group C. Both teams had the same number of shots in the match and it was only in the final ten minutes that the Spanish moved out to a three-goal lead. In a possibly surprising result Croatia beat Hungary by the odd goal in 55 in the group’s second match.
Group D had a draw between Russia and Romania in which the Romanians managed to lose a six goal lead in front of what is effectively a home crowd (Romania is within 10 miles of the stadium) – the Romanian coach called the Russians ‘lucky’ whereas the Russian coach thanked god. Montenegro took down Iceland in a 10 goal victory, Katarina Bulatovic helped herself to 7 and Marina Vukcevic saved half of everything that Iceland threw at her.
Today’s games (our predicted winners are in bold). All matches are live to UK viewers here.
Group C: 5.15pm (UK) Spain v Croatia; Hungary v Germany
Group D: 5.15pm Russia v Montenegro; Iceland v Romania
We’ve done the preview and some other people who know what they’re talking about have also had their say. Today, with a whopping eight games, Euro 2012 gets underway. Remember, this is the preliminary group stage so 12 of the 16 teams will progress so a loss today won’t be disastrous but teams will be wanting to build points and set down markers (and the sort of thing that sports commentators say when they’ve run out of other things).
Remember: it’s all live on the EHF Euro YouTube channel for viewers in the UK – and there will be a review programme every night at midnight on British Eurosport 2.
Here’s today’s fixtures with who I think (based on science(*)) will win in bold:
4.45pm (UK) Ukraine v Czech Republic; 7.15pm Norway v Serbia (draw)
4.45pm France v Macedonia; 7.15pm Sweden v Denmark
5.15pm Germany v Spain; 7.15pm Croatia v Hungary
5.05pm Montenegro v Iceland; 7.15pm Romania v Russia
(* = ‘science’ here is based on an alternative meaning of “guessing”)
So it’s back off to Serbia, land of Handball Fantasy, for the second handball Euro 2012 to be held there. It was the men earlier in the year and now it is the women. Norway are defending champions and favourites, as one might expect, and Handball Views remains even after its long break, ignorant and wildly inaccurate … but’s lets cast our eye over the upcoming championship.
Four preliminary groups of four (Groups A-D) contest the opening round with the last placed team being eliminated following this opening round robin. The top three from Groups A and B then enter Group I and the top three from C and D go into Group II. They then play three more games, one each against teams who qualified from the ‘other’ preliminary group. Points accrued against the five other teams in the Group are totalled – and the top two make in through to the semi finals.
This all makes a lot more sense once the tournament starts.
Norway qualified as Greatest Team on the Planet (TM) and by being holders. The other 15 had to actually qualify. Netherlands should have been hosts with an automatic spot but when they withdrew their spot was taken by the already-qualified Serbia.
Who will be knocked out first
Given the terrifyingly accurate record of Handball Views you might want to avoid betting your house on our opinion but we think Ukraine will be bottom of Group A, Sweden at the foot of a frighteningly close Group B, Croatia will exit Group C and Iceland bidding adieu from Group D.
Who will win the title
Norway. France will come second. Montenegro might rattle them a bit.
Where and when can I watch it?
It’s all LIVE on the EHF YouTube channel here. Matches start on 4 December and the final is on 16 December at 4pm UK.
Is Handball Views going to be covering it?
We’ll be trying to get ourselves near enough to a working computer with broadband to provide reviews of each day. As ever, your comments are appreciated!
How can I get in the mood?
You might want to compare the treatment given to promotion between the men’s and women’s tournaments. The top video is the song for the women’s; underneath it’s the men’s. Note that only one seems to want to show the sport first.