Drama aplenty today … here’s how the matches ended:
Russia 27:28 Slovenia
Spain 28:24 Germany
Denmark 28:26 Hungary
France 23:30 Croatia
The semi finals are:
Slovenia v Spain
Denmark v Croatia
and they will both be played in Barcelona on 25 January.
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
How do you feel about destiny? After Spain brushed aside what might have been expected to be an akward test against Serbia their fans must be starting to dream of a win for the home side in their first go at hosting the championship. Elsewhere it was business as usual for Slovenia and Croatia but Hungary and Poland at least had a match that had occasional moments of interest …
Slovenia 31:26 Egypt
Ten goals from Ahmed Mostafa were not enough for the Egyptians who were blitzed in the final stages of the first half, falling from level pegging to eight behind. They never got close enough in the second stanza but at least they weren’t embarrassed by the final score.
Serbia 20:31 Spain
The hall wasn’t full but by volume it might as well have been. Spain were in white, the Serbs in red which was a bit confusing but what was pretty straightforward was how the Spanish pounced on every Serb error in the opening stages and then never looked back. Albert Rocas had the most fun landing seven goals from seven attempts.
Croatia 33:24 Belarus
After six minutes Ivan Cupic scored from the 7m line to put Croatia up by 2 – the first time in the match either team had such a lead. By half time Croatia led 21:9 and Belarus’s save percentage was in single figures. Belarus aren’t a bad side but Croatia are playing like a team who want people to notice that they’re not just here to make up the numbers.
Hungary 27:19 Poland
This was close at half time with Hungary owning a 11:10 advantage but the boys in red pulled away in the first section of the second half to move out to 17:11 around the 40 minute mark and then not really looking back.
The quarter final draw therefore looks like this (all matches to be played 23 January):
Denmark v Hungary
France v Croatia
Germany v Spain
Russia v Slovenia
So, today saw the end of the group stages and the end of the host nation’s 100% record. Spain lost 25:27 to Croatia (who maintained their own 100% record) in front of 10,000 in the Caja Magica in Madrid. Jakov Gojun was red-carded for the Croatians but two late goals from Igor Vori and Lovro Sprem saw them home after the Spaniards had led the match entering the final five minutes.
Over in Zaragoza two other 100%ers went head to head: Slovenia overturned a 30:27 deficit in the final five and a half minutes to emerge 33:30 winners and take top spot in the group.
The last two teams to progress were Belarus and Egypt. Belarus did it the easy way by overpowering Saudi Arabia in a match that was one-sided throughout. Egypt and Algeria contested the last spot through the medium of goal difference. Egypt did what they had to by beating Australia by 25 goals meaning their goal difference was 7 better than Algeria leaving the latter requiring an unlikely victory over Hungary (or draw to progress). They put in a brave performance but lost.
The results of the day were:
Belarus 33:15 Saudi Arabia; Poland 33:25 South Korea; Serbia 31:33 Slovenia
Egypt 39:14 Australia; Spain 25:27 Croatia; Hungary 29:26 Algeria
Which means that the Round of 16 draw for this section looks like:
Slovenia v Egypt
Croatia v Belarus
Hungary v Poland
Serbia v Spain
Ties to be played 21 January
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.
Apologies for not linking to this before but it only came to my attention today: there are short highlights videos and interviews from the World Championship available on YouTube. They are on the Balonmano2013 channel and the link is here.
I don’t know how useful you’ll find them though – for example this video apparently contains all the action you need for the Slovenia v Belarus match.
For live matches you will still need to go to livehandball.tv or Bet365 and hand over money but if you want to see some handball for free you can go check the YouTube videos out.
Sadly, Handball Views‘ own application for the top position got lost in the post so England Handball, the body charged with increasing partipation for handball and in receipt of Sport England funding to do so, have had to make do with appointing David Meli to be their first ever CEO.
Meli was previously part of the National Governing Body Relationship Team at Sport England so the relationship between the two organisations should remain pretty stable now that he gone from gamekeeper to poacher.
England Handball’s goal over the next few years will be to build the participation levels for handball using the Olympics as a catalyst but also through growing the sport in schools and, hopefully, linking up with initiatives that will (for example) get more women and girls into sport generally. Handball being one of the more inclusive sports on the planet we should have good times ahead.
There’s more details and some quotes here.
It’s been a while since Handball Views caught up with how the Olympic Brits are getting on. At senior international level we know they’re basically busking on the underground to pay for travel and training for matches but for a happier picture our thoughts turn to Denmark.
Today sees Kelsi Fairbrother in action for Team Esbjerg against the girls in green of Viborg HK whose line-up includes Holly Lam-Moores.
After a pretty disastrouse Champions League run (10 losses from 10 games) Viborg are finding life a little easier domestically. They are tied for first spot with FC Midtjylland and 12 wins and a draw from their 13 matches. Esbjerg lie in fifth spot and when the two teams last met in the league in September it was a 26:18 win for Viborg.
The match starts at 6pm UK time. Viborg do a nice little app that allows you to follow games in real time so should you be, for example, stuck on a train following the match that way passes the time quite pleasantly. Beats Angry Birds anyway.
We’re now on to Match Day 4 for Groups A and B. After today things may be settled for some in terms of elimination and progression. Remember that it’s the top four from six who make it to the knock out rounds – and that if you want to watch you’ll have to do it online as there’s no UK TV bothering to show any of the tournament.
Group A begins with Brazil against Tunisia at 3pm. The Brazilians have a solitary win against their rivals Argentina to their name whereas their opponents scared France before beating Germany and Montenegro. If it goes to form this should be the game that secures Tunisia’s passage to the knock out matches. That’s followed at 5.30m by a must win game for Montenegro against Germany. The Montenegrin men would have been hoping to emulate their female compatriots but three losses from three means they need to beat Germany today and then do the same against Brazil. I don’t fancy their chances against a German side that hasn’t looked great so far but must surely improve. Last up in Granollers at 7.45pm France’s leisurely jaunt into the elimination rounds continues with what should be a comfortable win against Argentina.
Meanwhile in Seville the three games in Group B start with Macedonia v Russia at 2.45pm. Both teams have played two and lost one and with a group containing Chile and Qatar that should be more than enough to see them into the next round as one of the top four in the group. I don’t expect fireworks but the match should be close. At 5pm it is the confrontation between the aforementioned basement pair. Qatar are hosting the next World Championship and given that they don’t seem to have had too many issues in finding the net I’d make them slight favourites today. The bookies and people who know what they’re talking about may disagree. Finally, at 7.15pm, the group’s top two meet. Denmark have three from three compared to Icelands two and one record. Iceland’s loss against Russia came when they lost focus in the final stages of the match. I wouldn’t be surprised with something similar today: a tight game which the Danes win by staying the distance better.