Owing to my ongoing battle with my broadband I only actually saw one of the quarter finals as they happened. It turned out to be the one no one was talking about. Which is a shame but let’s see what else happened in the quarters and look ahead to Friday’s semis.
Brazil 33:31 Hungary (2OT)
This is the one I saw. A brutal, captivating match which both teams at times thought they’d taken control of. 2012 World Player of the Year Alexandra do Nascimento hit the net 10 times for the Brazilians as both teams combined hard defence with steady attack – and the occasional burst of cynicism. It was 26:26 at the end, 29:29 when the first OT period session ended – and then Brazil had the stamina to ride out the second period of overtime. Whatever happens now this is the Brazilian’s best ever result in the World Championships.
Poland 22:21 France
A win in regulation and, from what I saw, a pretty uninvolving game. Poland had a 2-3 goal cushion for most of the match and whenever France got back into it, Poland stepped things up again. As with Brazil this is now Poland’s best ever showing in the World Championships. France were runners-up last time and will presumably be mightily peeved and yet again having a match where there rhythm was so sadly lacking.
Serbia 28:25 Norway
The translated headline in one of the Norwegian papers I looked at says that the players are “fucking annoyed” with the criticism they are getting. But the Norwegians have now gone from holding all three major titles to just having their Olympic crown to defend and this time they blew a five-goal second-half lead to lose by three. The noise of the crowd is insane on the YouTube reruns but that doesn’t really explain how much Norway lost it. Serbia really must fancy their chances now. Serbia have made the semi finals once before – so this is almost their best performance in the World Championships.
Denmark 31:28 Germany
For the Germans Susann Müller hit 12 but they still lost. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. Giving up 7 7m penalties and watching 6 of them be converted will hurt you. Denmark progress and are probably the most traditionally strong team left in what is now a wide-open tournament.
The Semi Finals – all live on Bet365 live streaming
5pm (UK) – Serbia v Poland
Did anyone predict this? No, of course you didn’t. It’d now be a surprise for anything other than a Serb victory. The Belgrade Arena is going to be filled with 16,500 noisy Serbs and more large flags than there is space for. Poland need to stifle them like they did France but I just can’t see it happening. But then I was 0/4 on my quarter final predictions.
7.45pm – Brazil v Denmark
The Brazilians will be a force come Rio 2016 if things carry on this way. Able to muscle-up against the physical play of Hungary they also have some sharp shooters and some nice moves. Denmark are Denmark though, and have a handball pedigree like few others (especially now Norway are gone) but haven’t won a title (World/Olympic/European) since 2004. I suspect the bookies will make Brazil favourites but I honestly don’t know which way this one will go.
The day of the quarter finals ended in high drama with the match between Sweden and Russia being settled at the very end of extra time by two penalties. Both were legitimate (as much as you can tell in real time on an internet stream) but that didn’t stop the sense of injustice for the victims. Sweden were the unlucky ones – going down 31:30 after a compelling match. They chose often to defend with five on the line and one out blocking – and in extra time the Russians exploited that gap. There really wasn’t much to choose between them though and this really was a high quality game.
The most one-sided of the quarter finals was, possibly surprisingly, the one between France and Norway. The Norwegians owned a 17:5 half time lead and could afford to only win the second half by a goal, running out 32:19 winners. In the other matches, the non-European adventure is over as Japan couldn’t hold a half time lead against Denmark, losing 25:31 and Romania were too strong throughout for Hungary.
The semi finals will be played on 25 August and will be Romania v Denmark and Russia v Norway.
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)).