Owing to my ongoing battle with my broadband I only actually saw one of the quarter finals as they happened. It turned out to be the one no one was talking about. Which is a shame but let’s see what else happened in the quarters and look ahead to Friday’s semis.
Brazil 33:31 Hungary (2OT)
This is the one I saw. A brutal, captivating match which both teams at times thought they’d taken control of. 2012 World Player of the Year Alexandra do Nascimento hit the net 10 times for the Brazilians as both teams combined hard defence with steady attack – and the occasional burst of cynicism. It was 26:26 at the end, 29:29 when the first OT period session ended – and then Brazil had the stamina to ride out the second period of overtime. Whatever happens now this is the Brazilian’s best ever result in the World Championships.
Poland 22:21 France
A win in regulation and, from what I saw, a pretty uninvolving game. Poland had a 2-3 goal cushion for most of the match and whenever France got back into it, Poland stepped things up again. As with Brazil this is now Poland’s best ever showing in the World Championships. France were runners-up last time and will presumably be mightily peeved and yet again having a match where there rhythm was so sadly lacking.
Serbia 28:25 Norway
The translated headline in one of the Norwegian papers I looked at says that the players are “fucking annoyed” with the criticism they are getting. But the Norwegians have now gone from holding all three major titles to just having their Olympic crown to defend and this time they blew a five-goal second-half lead to lose by three. The noise of the crowd is insane on the YouTube reruns but that doesn’t really explain how much Norway lost it. Serbia really must fancy their chances now. Serbia have made the semi finals once before – so this is almost their best performance in the World Championships.
Denmark 31:28 Germany
For the Germans Susann Müller hit 12 but they still lost. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. Giving up 7 7m penalties and watching 6 of them be converted will hurt you. Denmark progress and are probably the most traditionally strong team left in what is now a wide-open tournament.
The Semi Finals – all live on Bet365 live streaming
5pm (UK) – Serbia v Poland
Did anyone predict this? No, of course you didn’t. It’d now be a surprise for anything other than a Serb victory. The Belgrade Arena is going to be filled with 16,500 noisy Serbs and more large flags than there is space for. Poland need to stifle them like they did France but I just can’t see it happening. But then I was 0/4 on my quarter final predictions.
7.45pm – Brazil v Denmark
The Brazilians will be a force come Rio 2016 if things carry on this way. Able to muscle-up against the physical play of Hungary they also have some sharp shooters and some nice moves. Denmark are Denmark though, and have a handball pedigree like few others (especially now Norway are gone) but haven’t won a title (World/Olympic/European) since 2004. I suspect the bookies will make Brazil favourites but I honestly don’t know which way this one will go.
I predicted a close one, I was wrong. There aren’t many in Barcelona tonight who will care.
In the most one-sided final in the history of the competition, Spain were the winners in front of an ecstatic home crowd. The most significant damage was done in the second quarter as a one-goal match turned into a 18:10 lead for Spain over the suprisingly underwhelming Danes. Joan Canellas top-scored for the Spanish with 7 and he and his fellow attackers were backed up by a stingy defence and some excellent goalkeeping.
20,000 saw the match in the hall – no doubt a few million more across Spain saw it on TV. It’s the biggest story on the El Pais site right now. The boost that Spanish handball maybe needed. The Danes may be sore but they can look forward to next year and being Euro 2014 hosts.
For now, though, the glory is all Spain’s.
2013 World Championship Final
Spain v Denmark
4.15pm (UK), Sunday 27 January, Palau Saint Jordi
Live on Premier Sports (Sky Channel 428 – free) and on bet365.com live streaming
So, here we are then. The European Champions against the hosts in a battle for the world title. Spanish handball had so much riding on its first ever hosting of the World Championship. Despite the strength of the top teams in the Asobal the rest of the league hasn’t had such an easy ride and there were fears that the public’s attention may be wandering … Hopefully a sell out of 16,500 in Barcelona and a clear shot on a Sunday afternoon should go some way to reminding the good people of Spain of the great game they have in their midst. And, hopefully as well, they will get to see a classic final regardless of who emerges triumphant.
Denmark came so close two years ago. France defeated them in extra time. But, since then, they’ve had experience in winning despite a passionate home crowd urging them to defeat – their taking of the Euro 2012 crown came against the hometown Serbs and their deafening support. Perhaps significantly (though perhaps not) Denmark beat Spain in the semi finals in Serbia – and whilst their matches have always been close (the average difference is under 2 goals) it is Denmark who have won six of their last seven meetings.
None of those matches were in Spain in a home World Championship though.
Spain have clearly relished the crowd. In their match against Serbia, for example, it seemed to be the extra man forcing opposition fumbles and propelling fastbreaks in response. When they fell behind against Germany it’s hard to see how their momentum back into the game could have been maintained without the surging insanity of the home support. Things might have been more straightforward against Slovenia but then the Slovenes can’t have enjoyed that every moment that something didn’t go their way the crowd reacted as if someone had given the title to Spain. For all the Spain are a strong side without the added extra the home advantage brings it would be hard to predict a victory for them.
Spain have scored the second most goals in the tournament: 245 in 8 matches. Want to guess which team beats them and has a significantly better scoring percentage in doing so? In Albert Rocas and Victor Tomas, Spain have two great counter-attack shooters and 7m takers. On the other hand, Denmark have Anders Eggert who has 23/24 from the penalty line. Both teams move the ball nicely to the wing when needed but have a good variety of attacking options – but maybe Denmark have the upper hand in being able to call on Mikkel Hansen to impose himself when needed. His tournament has been a bit underwhelming so far by his talismanic standards – Spain will hope it remains that way.
In defence, again, they are similar but you’d have to give Denmark the edge. Spain have a save percentage of 34%; Denmark 37%. The stat that could be significant in a match where turnovers and pounces on mistakes could be critical is that Denmark have done a much better job at preventing opposition fastbreaks turning into goals. Against Croatia, as well, it was noticeable that Denmark were able to (fairly) physically impose themselves into a game to prevent attacks spreading; Spain failed that test against Croatia and it resulted in their only defeat in the tournament. They’ve not faced a similar team since but Denmark will need to be stopped somehow.
So, there will be goals. Lots of goals. Spain will be hoping for more and more because if the game is high scoring it’ll mean the Danish defensive strengths aren’t working and we’ll be in a shooting match that either team could win. A tighter or more controlled game – one that silences the crowd for stretches – and you’d have to back Denmark.
But, honestly, this could go either way.
What the bookies say: Too close to call for the end of 60 minutes result; Denmark marginal favourites overall
What Handball Views says:
Denmark. Spain. Denmark. Spain.
Bless the good people at Premier Sports. The World Championship Final between Spain and Denmark will be live from 4.05pm (match starts 4.15pm) on Sunday 27 January on Sky Channel 428. Free to anyone as well as they’re having a freeview weekend.
Obviously you can’t move in the British media for previews of the World Championship which starts in two day’s time (should you want one more though here’s ours) … but for a bit of time tunnel fun here’s the final period of extra time from the 2011 final.
Don’t watch if you’re Danish.
In a final that was refreshing for being competitive from start to finish and in which the result wasn’t clear until the end Denmark emerged victorious by edging out Russia 27:26. The winning goal officially timed at 30:00 in the second half.
The Danes owned a 15:12 advantage at half time but were pegged back before Russia looked like the most likely to open up a decisive break. The Russians led 22:20 at one point before Denmark levelled at 24:24 and a nervous series of attacks in the final ten minutes saw neither side able to assert themselves.
With thirty seconds left the scores were tied and Russia had the ball – but after a steady build-up their shot went wide and a ludicrous fast break from Denmark saw Freja Kyndbal somehow score whilst the Russian defence tried everything to stop her. There was no time left for a response: cue celebrations for the team in red; despondency for the team in blue. Anne mett Hansen was player of the match with 8 goals from 12 shots.
It’s the second title at this level for the Danes. Norway take the bronze after a 36:30 win over Romania. The hosts will be pretty disappointed to wind up finishing 11th. And for the record the tournament’s top scorer was Aleksandrova Irina of Kazakhstan who powered in 62 goals.
If you want to relive any of the final, it’s here.
After two surprisingly straightforward semi finals the hope is that Russia and Denmark are closely enough matched (they are both unbeaten in the tournament) that the final should be a classic.
Denmark were four up against Romania by the break before running out eventual winners 39:28. Mette Tranborg top-scored for the Danes with 9 goals.
In the other match Russia took over the match after early exchanges of goals. By half time they led by 6 and despite Norway occasionally looking like they might pull it back they never got close enough to really trouble the Russians. The final score was 33:27.
The final will be available here and starts at 5.15pm UK. The bronze medal match is at 3pm UK.