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The quarter finalists are known at the Women’s World Championship

Apologies for lack of updates on this tournament.  A lack of broadband in the past few days has been the issue.  Hopefully it’s now resolved.

So the European champions have fallen by the wayside and the world champions are sauntering through, the hosts are getting by with home support and there are plenty of dark horses in the mix.  The World Championship in Serbia enters the quarter final stage on Wednesday with Norway still the favourites but everyone still thinking that this could just be their year.

All games are live via the Bet365 live streaming service or via the IHF’s own subscription channel.

So, without further ado, let’s have a look at those quarter finals (all start times are UK):

4.30pm Brazil v Hungary
Brazil look good in every sense apart from fashion and the bookies are making them odds-on favourites for this despite the Hungarians’ clearer pedigree (although you have to go back to the 1960s for their world title).  Neither side was unduly worried in their Round of 16 match and Brazil have yet to lose in the tournament.  It’s hard to disagree with the bookies.

4.30pm Poland v France
Poland staged a stunning second half come back to see off Romania and have played some nice handball through the tournament but they will surely come unstuck here.  France’s potential undoing would be to focus too much on their next game (presumably against Norway) and we have seen in the past that their play can become directionless.  But they should win comfortably.

7.15pm Denmark v Germany
Too close to call. Denmark ousted Montenegro whilst Germany saw off Angola.  Germany were impressive in their groups but Denmark have a tenacity that makes them hard to put away.  The bookies can’t decide but lean, slightly, to Denmark.  A result either way wouldn’t be a surprise.

7.15pm Serbia v Norway
If this was being played anywhere else you’d back Norway without thinking but, as it is, the atmosphere and the passion the Serbs play with count for something.  Norway should still have enough but if Serbia can keep it close or even get ahead then it could be interesting.

Hopefully, broadband permitting, Handball Views will be back with a recap on Wednesday evening and a look ahead to the semi finals.  Do leave comments below about anything that’s taken your notice during the world championship so far.

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Latest from the Women’s World Championship

With apologies for life getting in the way of updating this blog for the past few days of the tournament …

Wednesday’s action at the Women’s World Championship was centred on Groups A and B who, at the end of the day, had completed four of their five matches.

And in Group A, that’s all that is needed to confirm who the four qualifiers for the Round of 16 are.   South Korea booked their passage with a brutal 51:20 win over Paraguay and the Netherlands then did the same by recording their second tournament, this time over DR Congo.  The day’s final game saw two already qualified teams face off.  France and Montengro played a bizarrely low-scoring match that ended 17:16.

In Group B, Brazil made it four wins from four with a 24:20 victory over Japan.  This followed their resolute victory over Serbia which marked them out as dark horses.  China beat Algeria 27:25 but will need an unlikely victory over Serbia to have any chance of progressing.  In the last match, Denmark and Serbia had a bit of an arm wrestle but Serbia, riding their loud support once more, eventually ran out winners by 23:22.

The matches for the 12th December are (predicted winners in bold) below.  All matches are live over on Bet365 live streaming with the first game throwing off at 1.45pm (UK).

Group C:
Paraguay v Spain
Poland v Argentina
Angola v Norway

Group D:
Australia v Czech Republic
Germany v Tunisia
Romania v Hungary

Already qualified teams are in italics.

Serbia win big – and other news from the Women’s World Championship (Day 3)

After two match days two of the groups are starting to take shape with the most pleasing aspect of it all for the home fans being that their girls are two-from-two.  So, let’s wrap up what happened today and look ahead to tomorrow:

Let’s start in Group B because that’s where the crowd’s attention is most keenly focused.  Brazil were up first in Niš and followed up their comfortable win over Algeria with another one over China.  This time they did the damage mostly in the second half rather than the first but took it home 34:21 – Fernanda da Silva taking her tournament tally to 18 goals.  Serbia were in the hall next – and the crowd swelled from 200 to about 4,000 – and they rampaged past Algeria mixing confident attack with solid defence.  They were 18:6 up at the break and kept going for a 34:14 win – every goal cheered by the raucous crowd as if it had just won the title.  Lastly it was Japan and Denmark.  In 2011 when they met in the World Championship it took extra time to separate them.  Denmark started this time by demolishing China, Japan were edged out in the tournament opener by Serbia.  Today’s game started as a throwback to 2011 with the teams level at the half – Denmark took the spoils though, winning 29:25.

This all leaves Brazil, Serbia and Denmark with 100% records and presumably confident of progressing.  In contrast, Japan, China and Algeria are without any points to their name.  Of those three it’s Japan who look the most likely to take the fourth and final qualifying spot.

Back to Group A which began today with a bit of welcome non-European success.  South Korea rode a strong first half performance to outlast the Netherlands 29:26 and record their first points.  Next up was the possible mismatch of the tournament as DR Congo faced European champions Montenegro.  It didn’t end well as Congo really struggled to find space for shooting and at full time it was 35:9 – Bulatović adding 5 goals to her opening day 9.  And lastly. we had the battle of the blue, white and red flags as Dominican Republic faced France.  It started well for the Dominicans – they were only 5:3 down when I switched on for a bit, and ‘only’ 4:10 at the break.  France rotated a lot and had 11 different scorers but were still able to run out 27:10 winners.

So, the standings for Group A are now France and Montenegro ahead of the pack with 4 points, South Korea and the Netherlands have 2 points, Dominican Republic and DR Congo have zero points.  The smart money probably says that the group will settle to look like that by the end.

Tomorrow sees Groups C and D take to the court.  In Group C Angola have a second opportunity to beat South American opposition – having taken down Argentina they’ll be strong favourites against the notably weaker Paraguay.  Spain lost their opening encounter to Norway but should still have too much for Poland – and the day is rounded off by Argentina facing Norway.  I’ll eat your hat if Norway lose that one.

It could all be one-way traffic in Group D as well.  Tunisia weren’t that impressive in losing to Romania and this time they have the tougher test of Hungary to stand up to.  This is followed by Germany’s probable victory over the Czech Republic – although Germany’s opener against Australia was probably too much of a stroll to judge their overall strength.  Lastly, it is Australia who played with passion if not guile in their opening game against Romania who will surely be far too strong for them.

Remember, you can legally watch this over at livestream.tv for the privilege of paying the IHF a stunning £40.  The alternative is to watch for whatever you have in a Bet365 account and click on livestreaming – all the matches are there.  There are illegal alternatives but make sure your anti-virus is up to date.

And, finally, over on YouTube highlights of the days are appearing the morning after.  That’s everything compressed into just under 10 mins.  The link for those is here.

All the action from Day 2 of the Women’s World Championship

A veritable feast of handball saw results pretty much go as expected but if there was a lack of surprises there was no shortage of skill and effort – and, pleasingly, the venues looked an awful lot fuller than when Serbia staged the women’s Euro 2012.

Anyway, here’s how it all shook down:

In Group A, European champions had to work hard to overcome the challenge from South Korea.  The Koreans opened out a lead early in the first half and it was 11-11 at the break.  Montenegro eventually winning 24:22 but the game’s top scorer was Sun Hee Woo of Korea.  Elsewhere in the group France overwhelmed DR Congo 31:13 (with Christianne  Mwasese Mwange getting 9 of those 13) and Netherlands did the same to the Dominican Republic by 44:21.

We already knew that Group B had started with a win for the hometown Serbs over Japan.  That was followed today by Brazil hitting the front early against Algeria (up by 7 after 15 minutes; 21:7 at half time) before finally running out 36:20 winners.  The last game saw Denmark put on a show against China.  The opening few minutes was reasonably even but by half time the Danes were showing their class and the second half was one-way traffice.  The final score was 44:21.  China finished bottom of their group in 2011 with a -63 points difference – they actually need to improve to avoid that this time.

Group C started with a dominant performance from Angola who turned a pretty tight first half into a comfortable 33:23 victory over Argentina.  The fact that the Angolans were 100% from their six 7m shots shows both how good they got shooting-wise but also how they harried the Argentinians into errors in the second half in particular.  This is was then followed by an even more dominant showing from Poland as more than a dozen of their team got on the scoresheet as they spanked Paraguay 40:6.  Katarzyna Koniuszaniec top-scored with 8.  The big match in Group C was between 2011 champions Norway and 2011 bronze medalists Spain – and it did turn out to be a nicely close affair.  Neither team will feel they played anything like their best in a match where nobody was able to establish control.  A 7m penalty two minutes from the end gave Norway a 2 point lead and that they maintained when Spain had their own 7m saved a minute later.  In the end it finished 22:20 both teams will have better days and are in no danger of not making the knock out rounds anyway.

Hungary are likely to be challengers come the end of the tournament and they started strongly today in Group D with the woman who crops up in all the photos, Anita Görbicz, grabbing 9 as they stormed past the Czech Republic 35:27.  It was also a dominant performance from Germany but they were up against the minnows from Australia – final score 36:15, although Australia deserve a lot of credit especially for how they took the game to the Germans in the opening twenty minutes.  In the last group D game, Romania were far too strong for Tunisia without being particularly impressive in winning 27:17.

Groups A and B are in action on Sunday.  In Group A, it’s South Korea v Netherlands followed by DR Congo v Montenegro, and then lastly it’s Dominican Republic v France.  Over in Group B, they have China v Brazil, then Algeria v Serbia, wrap up with Japan v Denmark.

Karabatic and others banned

Nikola Karabatic, his brother Luka, and five others (Samuel Honrubia, Mladen Bojinovic, Dragan Gajic, Primoz Prost and Issam Tej) have been suspended for six games – the maximum punishment available – for either directly or indirectly betting on the now infamous Montpellier loss to Cesson-Rennes at the end of last season.

They all deny wrongdoing and are still under criminal investigation.

World Championship Quarter Finals – let battle commence …

Today we move into the final eight stage of the World Championship.  We are in sight of the final and the glory that brings.  But before then we have the heartache that going out before the medal rounds will bring.  There will be tears and cheers today – and hopefully some good, close handball.  As ever, if you’re in the UK, you’ll need to go online to watch.  That’s livehandball.tv and pay a subscription or Bet365 and have some money in an account.  But enough of the preamble, let’s get to the amble:

5.15pm (UK) Russia v Slovenia
This is the second meeting between these two teams in World Championship history: seven years ago Russia overturned an 18:16 deficit to record a 31:27 win.  It will go against form if the same were to happen today.  Somehow the IHF ranks Slovenia 23rd and Russia 3rd in the global men’s game.  We’ve not seen that in Spain.  Slovenia have been the only team to play consistently in pretty much every match and, as a result, they have won every match. Russia was heavily dependent on their goalkeeper, Igor Levshin, in the previous round against Brazil.  They need to find more ways of moving forward – and speed up their game which very often has dropped to pedestrian levels.    A goalscorer other than Timur Dibirov would also help.
The bookies say: Slovenia by 1; Handball Views says: Slovenia in extra time

6pm Spain v Germany
Are we excited yet? Spain have beaten Germany in five of their last eight competitive meetings and in front of their home crowd will be expecting to do so again.  They were ruthless against Serbia – if you’ve seen how the Norway women’s team pounce on the ball and then launch a fastbreak that crushes hopes you’ll know what I mean.  And Spain did it time and again to establish a dominant position they never remotely looked like losing.  They did wobble a bit against Croatia in the group stage but could put that down to having already qualified.  Germany showed against Macedonia that they too can move the ball quickly when needed and they have a tournament leading 95% fastbreak efficiency (scoring 36 times this way in their 6 games so far).  This game could boil down to who makes the fewest errors and respects possession the most.  If Germany are to win I’d guess they need to hit the front early as with the crowd going wild it’ll be hard to come from behind.
The bookies say: Spain by 5; Handball Views says: Spain all day long

7.45pm Denmark v Hungary
Given that Denmark are one of the favourites it’s possibly a surprise to note that Hungary hold the edge in recent encounters.  Denmark were runners-up to France two years ago and have played this tournament like a horse conserving energy for the sprint after the final fence.  They haven’t been inspiring but they have done what they need to do.  They eased past Tunisia in the last round but with players such as Mikkel Hansen and Anders Eggert capable of turning matches by themselves they can always find that next gear.  Hungary are a team without any dominant stars (or so it appears to me): Gabor Csaszar leads their scoring with 25 but he’s part of a group of half a dozen with a similar tally.  It will be that sort of dogged togetherness which may see them hang in today but anything other than Danish win will be the upset of the tournament.
The bookies say: Denmark by 5; Handball Views says: Denmark by 5

8.30pm France v Croatia
In the twelve competitive matches logged on Handball Wettpoint, France have a 7-5 advantage.  But two of those were major finals: the 2009 World and 2010 European finals went bleu. Croatia have their own titles too of course: two Olympic golds and a World title.  This is the Big One of the quarter final stage.  Read off a list of the French squad and as well as sounding like a PSG shopping list it’s a roll call of the most exciting players in the game: Karabatic, Dinart and Abalo, backed with the shouty and fun Thierry Omeyer in goal.  Croatia have come to the tournament without Ivano Balic and with a coach talking about a ‘transition’ team or why this isn’t an important tournament to win because you don’t qualify for another as a result.  Croatia’s performances have shown such lines up for the hooey they are.  They won all five of their group matches and then smashed Belarus 21:9 in a single half of play.  Ivan Cupic has led the way with 39 goals, 30 of which have come from fast breaks or 7m slams.  Expect this game to go down to the wire.
The bookies say: France by 1; Handball Views says: France come from behind to win

Last places up for grabs at the World Champioship … here’s the preview …

A Belarus point-scoring machine.

It’s the final day of the group stages at the World Championships.  After today every match we talk about will be an eliminator.

The last two places in the knock out rounds will be decided today.  In Group C, this comes down to a straight head to head between Belarus and Saudi Arabia.  Both teams have only one win in the tournament so far – and that against South Korea who have disappointed throughout – but whereas Saudi have scored only sparingly (80 goals in four games) and not really contested the matches they’ve lost, Belarus have the championship’s top scorer (Siarhei Rutenka) and blew a 5-goal half-time lead against Slovenia and weren’t embarrassed against Poland.  They should have enough in defence to limit Saudi’s goalscoring and should be able to score pretty easily as well.  Anything but Belarus progression would be a surprise.  The match starts at 2.45pm (UK).

Group D is a bit more fiddly.  In their head to head Algeria and Egypt tied.  The next determiner is therefore goal difference.  At the moment, Algeria are level on goal difference and Egypt are -18 but today Egypt play Australia who averaging losing by 24 points.  Algeria have to face Hungary.  If Egypt win by enough to go ahead of Algeria’s goal difference – and Algeria lose to Hungary then by my reckoning it is Egypt who will progress.  The only sure thing is that Egypt will beat Australia by a big margin and who goes through may very well come down to how interested a Hungarian side that have already qualified manage to stay.  Match times are 3.45pm for Egypt v Australia and 8.15pm for Hungary v Algeria.

The other games of the day are: in Group C, Poland against South Korea (5pm) and Serbia v Slovenia (7.15pm); in Group D, Spain v Croatia (7pm).