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).
Paraguay v Spain
Poland v Argentina
Angola v Norway
Australia v Czech Republic
Germany v Tunisia
Romania v Hungary
Already qualified teams are in italics.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The last day of action in Groups A and B sees two matches out of the six that are head to head to battles that will determine progression. The rest are dead rubbers – although group rankings obviously impact on who teams will face in the knock out stages. Just to repeat myself: to see any of these games go to either livehandball.tv or Bet365.com. There is no UK TV coverage.
The non-essential games are (all times UK): 5.15pm unbeaten France against variable Germany; 7.45pm eliminated Montenegro against qualified Brazil (both Group A) – and 2.45pm 2-1-1 Russia against 0-5 Chile; 7.15pm cruise control Denmark against already through Macedonia (both Group B).
The match that matters in Group A is Argentina versus Tunisia and it’s on at 3pm. Argentina opened with a good win against Montenegro but since then have lost to Brazil, Germany and France by reasonable margins. Tunisia are in the bizarre position of having beaten Germany and run France close but still facing elimination after they came unstuck against Brazil. A draw will be good enough to put Tunisia through but if Argentina win then as head to head is (apparently) the first determiner they will progress as both teams will have four points. I’m still backing Tunisia but they will need to solidify at the back and bully Argentina as they almost bullied France. Argentina sleepwalked through the match against France but will be stronger today. It should be a good one.
In Group B it really should be a comfortable win for Iceland over Qatar (starts 5pm). The only reason for thinking otherwise is that Qatar have been okay when it comes to attack so should score enough to keep the match interesting and that Iceland have been wobbly in crunch moments both in this tournament and in the Olympics (remember back to their penalty miss that would have won the match against Hungary). If we get to the last stages and its close we could see nervousness and that might produce the upset. A draw will see Iceland through – if Qatar win then both teams will have four points so they should progress on the head to head.
A few things to note from today: Tunisia made it 2 wins from 3 with a close-fought victory over Montenegro; Spain became the first team to pass 100 goals in the tournament – and then Denmark joined them; Algeria and Egypt played out another draw (they also drew in last year’s Africa Championships); Poland have the noisiest supporters.
Also, the following teams have three wins from three: France, Denmark, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Croatia.
Group A: Tunisia 27:25 Montenegro; Germany 31:27 Argentina; France 27:22 Brazil
Group B: Qatar 22:29 Russia; Macedonia 19:23 Iceland; Denmark 43:24 Chile
Group C: South Korea 20:26 Belarus; Serbia 30:20 Saudi Arabia; Slovenia 25:24 Poland
Group D: Algeria 24: Egypt; Spain 51:11 Australia; Croatia 30:21 Hungary