In the end, it was a pretty interesting day’s play. As expected, Iceland got past Qatar easily enough to book their passage into the last 16 and enter the knock out rounds but it was a pretty tense and brutal affair in the other head-to-head eliminator. Tunisia put out Argentina in the Olympics and they repeated the act again today. The first half was bizarre with poor shooting throughout and it finished 7:6 to Tunisia. In the second half both teams gelled better and there was a lot of ‘strong’ defence from Tunisia that drew the referee’s attention but they were smart enough to draw ‘only’ five two minute suspension. They won in the end 22:18 with Ben Salah top-scoring with 5 goals.
In the matches that ‘didn’t matter’ there was the small matter of pride and placement to play for. This was best shown by the Germans who, after a wobbly path to qualification, put in a sterling day’s work to end France’s 100% record and, almost perversely, take top spot in the group. Denmark, also contenders with a 100% record, did comeback having trailed Macedonia into the second half. The noisy, bright fans from the Former Yugoslav Republic had to make do with thoughts of what might have been.
In the last match of the day Montenegro had about as good a shot as they could have hoped for to end their barren run and get some championship points. They overturned a 10:11 deficit against Brazil (who incidentally were wearing the worst handball kit I’ve ever seen) but couldn’t stay ahead, eventually losing 26:25. That result means Brazil, who finished 2nd in the Pan-American Championship last season, have won three of their five group matches.
The day’s results were:
Group A: Argentina 18:22 Tunisia; France 30:32 Germany; Montenegro 25:26 Brazil
Group B: Russia 36:24 Chile; Iceland 39:29 Qatar; Denmark 33:30 Macedonia
And this means that this is how this section of the draw looks like in the round of 16:
Germany v Macedonia
Denmark v Tunisia
Iceland v France
Brazil v Russia
These ties will be played on Sunday.
My prediction that Montenegro would ride a wave of home-court advantage all the way to the title is now today’s chip wrappings. The hosts are not one of the eight nations that can go on to win the title. They will now be in the placement games with the best they can hope for being a 9th place finish. The four quarter finals take place on 23 August and will all be streamed live here. Japan is the only non-European team still in the mix.
The draw for the quarter finals is:
Hungary (3-1-0) v Romania (3-0-1);
Japan (3-0-1) v Denmark (3-1-0)
Russia (4-0-0) v Sweden (3-0-1);
France (3-1-0) v Norway (4-0-0)
Match times are UK, (group record in brackets (W-D-L)).