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.
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.
Another day at the World Championship and another six game schedule. This time our attention turns to Groups C and D who play their second batch of matches. As a reminder for those in the UK you can (legally) watch in one of two ways: you can pay £40 to livehandball.tv (about whom we are not hearing positives) or you can deposit any amount in a Bet365 account and watch there. There are of course other ways but you should probably check your anti-virus software before trying them. Anyway, suitably chastened by how yesterday turned out for our predictions, here are our thoughts on today’s games.
Group C begins at 2.45pm (UK) with the match-up between South Korea and Slovenia. According to those chaps at Handball Wettpoint you have to go back to 2011 for South Korea’s last victory over a European side and they have lost against Slovenia every time they’ve met … but I still live in hope of a competitive match. At 5pm it’s Belarus against Serbia and anything other than a Serb win will be something of a surprise. Belarus lost to Poland last time out whereas Serbia made short work of the Koreans. Finally, at 7.15pm the finale of the day sees Poland play Saudi Arabia. It is apparently the first time the two sides have met in a competitive fixture. Poland should win comfortably.
Over in Madrid the hosts Spain are second in the triple bill. Fans of #hispanos will have to watch Croatia power past Algeria at 3.45pm before getting to see their boys do the same against Egypt at 6pm. The end of what should be a predictable day in the group comes at 8.15pm when Hungary (who scored more than 30 against Egypt) play Australia (who conceded more than 30 against Croatia). The bookies aren’t even taking bets on the outcome of the match.
How’s your stamina? Twenty-four teams are about to set forth and play approximately 1,754 handball matches in just over a fortnight at the end of which they will be ranked from places 1-24 and we will have a World Champion. But, before we get started and with the usual caveats that Handball Views isn’t known for its accuracy or prediction abilities, here are some facts, stats and what to look out for in the tournament.
So what is this then?
This is the World Championship. Since 1993 it’s been held every two years but it has a history stretching back to 1938 when Germany beat a soon-to-be-anschlussed Austria as well as Sweden and Denmark. That tournament and its successors (starting in 1954) played a major role in establishing the indoor court form of handball as the dominant version of the game (or so it says on Wikipedia).
Three teams have won the title four times – Sweden, France and Romania – and France are the current champions. The 2013 Championships is Spain’s first go at hosting and the 2015 event will be held in Qatar.
Everybody. Apart from Great Britain who were knocked out in a pre-qualification tournament by Austria. Austria then got their comeuppance against Macedonia so they’re not there either. But loads of other teams are. France are there as champions, Spain as hosts and they are joined by 12 other European sides including 2012 Euro champs Denmark. The other ten countries come from Oceania (this is always Australia), Asia (South Korea, Qatar and Saudi Arabia), America (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) and Africa (Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt).
Who’s the favourite
After an officially disappointing Euro 2012, France redeemed themselves by taking Olympics gold. European champions Denmark were eliminated in the Olympic quarter finals (by Sweden, who didn’t even qualify for this). So it’s quite open. Spain will expect a boost by being the host nation. Take your pick from those three … and Croatia. Following too much soccer has also told me that you can never rule out the Germans – although they do come in at 15/1. The most fancied non-European side is South Korea and Australia the rankest of rank outsiders.
How is this all decided
The initial round-robin stage is four groups of six with each side (obviously) having five matches. Four of those six then qualify for the round of 16 and we’re straight into knock-out matches. The bottom two go into placement matches. Winners from each round progress through to the final – and at each stage losers go to ranking ties. The first match is in Madrid on 11 January (Spain v Algeria at 6pm UK) and the final is in Barcelona on 27 January.
How can I watch
Now, this could be complicated. There’s no confirmed television coverage in the UK, not even any late night highlights tucked away on British Eurosport 2. There’s also no handy YouTube or Laola1 stream like for the European Championships or EHF Champions League. The IHF have sent this tournament over to livehandball.tv and if you want to watch there you’ll have to pay but as of today the subscribe function there isn’t working.
The legal alternative, which may not be to everyone’s taste is, to watch via the live streaming at Bet365. There’s no commentary (usually) and it’s very much not big screen HD but for £1 in your account you will get to see all the matches live.
[EDIT: The subscription link at livehandball.tv is now working. A subscription for the tournament will cost you £40 – all matches will feature English commentary. And presumably a butler.]
Who will win
Handball Views is going out on a limb to back the hometown boys of Spain to take the title. We apologise in advance for dooming them to failure before the tournament has even started.
If you have any deep thoughts about the upcoming matches or ideas about who will win do let me know in the comments below …
So it’s back off to Serbia, land of Handball Fantasy, for the second handball Euro 2012 to be held there. It was the men earlier in the year and now it is the women. Norway are defending champions and favourites, as one might expect, and Handball Views remains even after its long break, ignorant and wildly inaccurate … but’s lets cast our eye over the upcoming championship.
Four preliminary groups of four (Groups A-D) contest the opening round with the last placed team being eliminated following this opening round robin. The top three from Groups A and B then enter Group I and the top three from C and D go into Group II. They then play three more games, one each against teams who qualified from the ‘other’ preliminary group. Points accrued against the five other teams in the Group are totalled – and the top two make in through to the semi finals.
This all makes a lot more sense once the tournament starts.
Norway qualified as Greatest Team on the Planet (TM) and by being holders. The other 15 had to actually qualify. Netherlands should have been hosts with an automatic spot but when they withdrew their spot was taken by the already-qualified Serbia.
Who will be knocked out first
Given the terrifyingly accurate record of Handball Views you might want to avoid betting your house on our opinion but we think Ukraine will be bottom of Group A, Sweden at the foot of a frighteningly close Group B, Croatia will exit Group C and Iceland bidding adieu from Group D.
Who will win the title
Norway. France will come second. Montenegro might rattle them a bit.
Where and when can I watch it?
It’s all LIVE on the EHF YouTube channel here. Matches start on 4 December and the final is on 16 December at 4pm UK.
Is Handball Views going to be covering it?
We’ll be trying to get ourselves near enough to a working computer with broadband to provide reviews of each day. As ever, your comments are appreciated!
How can I get in the mood?
You might want to compare the treatment given to promotion between the men’s and women’s tournaments. The top video is the song for the women’s; underneath it’s the men’s. Note that only one seems to want to show the sport first.