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.
I thought I’d resurrect the site in honour of the fact that there’s a top-drawer international tournament coming up and if you can’t get excited about that then what can you get excited by?
The 21st Women’s Handball World Championships starts this evening at 5pm UK time with the host nation (that’s Serbia) taking on Japan. Anything other than a mahoosive win for the home team will be a shock. Japan finished third at the Asian Championships to qualify and didn’t disgrace themselves in the 2011 World Championship (Denmark required extra time to put them out at the quarter final stage) and whilst the Serbs, surprisingly, don’t have a great World Championship pedigree they will hope to ride the same momentum they had during Euro 2012 which was also held in Serbia where they reached the semi finals.
Serbia v Japan is the only match today. Everyone else plays tomorrow in what some people might call a handball overload. Those people are wrong.
The full fixture list for the opening matches on 7 December is below, my helpful predictions are in brackets. All times are UK.
1.45pm Montenegro v South Korea (The European champions should win fairly comfortably but Korea aren’t too shabby and it should be a good game.)
4pm France v DR Congo (The French could play their third string for the whole match and win at a canter. This could be ugly.)
6.15pm Netherlands v Dominican Republic (The Dutch never seem to be quite as good as I expect them to be but should still win here against the Americas’ third best team.)
5pm Brazil v Algeria (I’m looking forward to this one. Both teams will have marked this as must win)
7.15pm Denmark v China (China have never finished higher than 12th in a World Championship. Denmark will win.)
2.45pm Angola v Argentina (See Brazil v Algeria except I expect this to be even better.)
5pm Poland v Paraguay (Poland to win. Not much else to say.)
7.15pm Norway v Spain (It’s a shame that there’s so little jeopardy in the early stages. This really should be a high quality contest though. Norway lost their first match in 2011 (to Germany) but you’d expect them to win today.)
1.45pm Hungary v Czech Republic (Hungary are really quite good, the Czech Republic less so.)
4pm Germany v Australia (As a proud Englishman I am always pleased to see Australia lose. And they will lose here. By a lot.)
6.15pm Romania v Tunisia (Romania’s star has somewhat sunk in handball terms but they should still win games like this one.)
Four teams from each group go into the Last 16 which is then a straightforward knock out to the final. The Round of 16 is played 15/16 December and the final is on the 22nd. Expect full venues for when the Serbs are around, less full ones for when they are not.
There is an official IHF page where you can watch the tournament. It’ll cost you (and I’m not making this up) £30. Because that’s how you spread handball. You wouldn’t want to, I don’t know, follow the example of the European Handball Federation (and others) and have live matches stream over YouTube or ehftv so anyone not already converted can see the action firsthand. That would be silly. But, anyway, if you don’t want to pay £30 you can deposit £1 in a Bet365 account and they appear to have every match available on their livestreaming although the quality will be less. I have looked on the Eurosport/Premier pages but can’t see any coverage there yet.
To get you in the mood for the tournament why not watch the bizarre teaser video:
Or, to actually get you in the mood, how about reliving the final few minutes of the epic European final where Montenegro beat Norway. Anything like this between now and the 22nd and we’ll all be well-pleased:
Live handball returns to our legal internet streams again this weekend with the final three games of Matchday 1 of the Main Round of the EHF Women’s Champions League. This is where the competition gets properly serious and there’s a lot to look forward to.
Saturday sees what is probably the Match of the Week as Györi Audi play host to Buducnost in a rerun of last season’s final. Buducnost have not travelled particularly well on their Champions League travels this year losing to both Thueringer and Zvezda Zvenigorod in the previous group round. Györi qualified from the group with six wins from six and in Anita Görbicz have the poster girl for the women’s Champions League (at least as far as every EHF advert ever produced is concerned). You’d probably back Györi today but without going too far out on a limb there’s a reasonable chance that as well as their return fixture these two will meet again in the knock out stages – although Larvik, who won last week, may disagree.
Sunday in Group 2 sees, happily enough, two matches. at 2pm UK it’s the Russians of Zvezda Zvenigorod against the Slovenians of Krim Ljubljana. Ljubljana needed a last-match win to come through the previous grouop stage whereas their opponents, who had to come through a qualifying tournament to reach the Champions League won five matches for an easy progression. Let’s assume that at home they will do so again.
The second group 2 match is between CS Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea (that’s easy for you to say, etc etc) and the team that the EHF and the listings call FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria but that wikipedia wants to call Ferencvárosi. Either way, both these teams have pedigree: the Hungarians are twice Champions League finalists and current EHF Cup Winners Cup holders; the Romanians are likewise previous finalists and have also won their domestic title eighteen times in the past twenty-four years. The hosts will have to do without Cristina Neagu, the world’s best player in 2010, who following a return in the autumn from a 20-month lay-off has now torn her ACL and will play no more this season. As for who will win today: CS Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea are so far unbeaten in the Champions League and “FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria” dropped only the match away to Larvik, and that was after they’d qualified. Which means I haven’t a clue but it should be close.
Links to all the matches – as well as some in the EHF Cup and other tournaments – can be found here.
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.
So it’s come to this. The final Friday of the World Championship and four teams remain to chase the ultimate prize. France have gone home, licking their wounds and looking to rebuild after a decade of domination. They’re joined by others who maybe thought they might stand a chance: bye bye Germany and Russia. Of the four who remain you could probably have picked Spain and Denmark beforehand but look at the Balkan duo of Croatia and Slovenia. They’ve both gone through by winning every game and they’re kept apart again today. This could be a day of glory or heartbreak for the former bits of Yugoslavia. (As ever: if you’re in the UK there is no TV coverage. You’ll need to subscribe at http://www.livehandball.tv or have money in a Bet365 account and access their livestreaming).
6.15pm (UK) Spain v Slovenia
These two sides have met four times competitively and Spain have won all four with an average margin of victory of 8 points. History clearly counts for nothing here though. Slovenia are nicely solid at the back and do things in a smart way when they move forward. They’re also not dependent on one player displaying effective rotation throughout matches. They don’t seem to cop too many penalties either. So whilst they’re not the most thrilling team you’ll ever see they will be hard to beat as their resolve throughout the match against Russia showed. Spain, on the other hand, are all about dynamism. Get the home crowd cheering, pounce on the fastbreaks and defend robustly when necessary. Spain had to come from behind against Germany but ended the match looking like champions. Despite the Slovenians’ undoubted ability and strengths it will feel like a surprise if Spain don’t qualify for the final today.
The bookies say: Spain by 4; Handball Views says: Closer than that but a Spain win
8.30pm Denmark v Croatia
Croatia set their stall out within a minute against France: Drago Vukovic getting a red card for a decapitation. They ‘kept France honest’ throughout the match from that point on. Some solid goalkeeping at the start from Alilovic helped Croatia establish a lead and then, even though the French defence began to restrict Croatia to distance shots, the defence was strong enough to keep them ahead. Nine goals from Domagoj Duvnjak also helped. Croatia will need the same strength and ‘grit’ again today. Denmark are frighteningly good when they click but prone to losing their concentration. They managed to turn a comfortable lead over Hungary in the quarter final into a match requiring a decisive throw from Henrik Møllgaard to douse a Hungarian revival. There’s no doubting their chops, just their focus. History is no guide: 15 meetings this decade and it’s as even a split as possible. This could be very interesting.
The bookies say: Denmark by 1; Handball Views says: Croatia, just.
The final will be on Sunday; losers get to play again for bronze tomorrow.
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
Day 2 of the knock out stages and all eyes are probably on Serbia v Spain. But there are other matches too. So here’s our look at them all.
6pm (UK) Slovenia v Egypt
It’s not the most glamourous tie of the round and it should be a routine win for Slovenia who qualified with five wins from five. Egypt did enough in their group by taking a draw against Algeria and then progressing on goal difference. Slovenia have a European second place to their name (in 2004) and reached the quarter finals last year but they’ve never finished better than 10th in the Worlds. Egypt took third place in last year’s African championship but can boast being the only non-European side to reach a World Championship semi final – unfortunately that was over a decade ago. This should be a relatively straightforward progression for Slovenia.
Winner plays Russia
6pm Serbia v Spain
Hands up who saw this match appearing as early as the Round of 16? This match will be a proper test for the title credentials of the #hispanos. Spain have won the last two encounters between the sides (both last year, in Olympic qualifying and then at the Games themselves) and away from their hometown venues Serbia are much less dominant. In their group they lost to both Poland and Slovenia. But then, Spain similarly fell to Croatia in their last match. I’m going to go with Spain but I think it will be close.
Winner plays Germany
8.30pm Hungary v Poland
Two efficient but strangely uninspiring sides meet in the late game in Barcelona. Poland made it to the World Championship final in 2007 and were third in 2009 but now stand 11th in the IHF rankings. They have grit – coming from behind to beat Serbia – and are also good at closing out matches. If you know Hungary at all you’ll know that they routinely finish 4th in the Olympics. In the World Championship they don’t often make it that far – a semi final and losing final spot being their tally. There’s no shame in having lost to Croatia and Spain in the group stages and for no reason other than they’ve been stretched more by their opposition I’m going with Hungary today.
Winner plays Denmark
8.30pm Croatia v Belarus
Croatia have two Olympic and one World titles; Belarus have two World Championship appearances. This is a proper top qualifier v bottom qualifier match up and any result other than a comfortable win for the Croatians will see me buying and wearing a Belarus top as punishment.
Winner plays France
So we’re into what our continental friends call the 1/8 round but which we’ll stick to calling the Round of 16 or Second Round, or first knock-out round. Or something. There are 16 teams left and from now on each match is an eliminator. Today sees the eight qualified teams from Groups A and B go forth blinking into this brave new world – all live on livehandball.tv or Bet365, but not actual TV – and this is how Handball Views sees it:
2.45pm (UK) Germany v Macedonia
The Germans lost to Tunisia but beat everybody else, including France, to top their group. Macedonia recorded two wins and a draw in their five group matches including overturning a 13:16 half time deficit against the Russians to take the point in that game. Germany haven’t looked as impressive as their table-topping performance would indicate: their defence has been no better than average but they have shared the goals around and been fairly ruthless on the fast breaks. Macedonia have the brightest and loudest fans in the tournament but as a team have relied a lot on Dejan Manaskov who is not only their top scorer but has been on court for all but 22 minutes of their group matches. If Germany play as well as they can they will win – but Macedonia will know that somebody out there should be able to ‘do a Tunisia’ on them.
4.3pm Brazil v Russia
Brazil recorded three good wins in their group by beating Tunisia, Argentina and Montenegro but you have to assume their run will come to an end today against a country that has won all the major titles available: World, Olympic and European, albeit none since 2000. Brazil will need to massively improve their shooting percentage (currently 51%) and their goalkeeping (31%) if they are to have any chance. Russia who have at times appeared to lack a bit of focus should have enough today and top scorer Tibor Dibirov will be looking to add to his tally.
7.15pm Iceland v France
The battle of the blue, white and reds and all true-born Englishmen will be pretending they know exactly how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull but we can expect that even with the support of les rosbifs going to their opponents that the French will win through today. Despite the 37 goals of Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson (pronounced: Smith) Iceland haven’t really clicked as a unit as well as you might have expected and have had prolonged periods of wobbliness – perhaps best exemplified where they let a winning position against Russia turn into a heavy defeat. France are France – comfortable favourties in this and pretty much every match – and whilst they did lose to an inspired Germany and have to dig deep against Tunisia I think it’ll be the boys from the other side of la Manche who will be celebrating tonight.
7.15pm Denmark v Tunisia
You have to feel for Tunisia. They beat Germany. They scare the hell out of France. They win a hard-fought head-to-head decider against Argentina to progress. And their reward is to face the Danes. That’s European Champion 2012 Denmark, to you. Denmark with a 70% scoring percentage who have only felt the need to play Mikkel Hansen in three games. But when you have Anders Eggert stepping up with 33/36 and a defence that whilst not backed by rock solid goalkeeping does a good job of frustrating opponents you can just stroll through your group without dropping a point. Tunisia will go back to basics: a brutal, bruising defence and hope to ride out the inevitable suspensions and do enough to stay close and get in the Danish faces. It won’t be pretty but if they don’t manage it it will be a heavy loss and a sad end.
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).
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.