I predicted a close one, I was wrong. There aren’t many in Barcelona tonight who will care.
In the most one-sided final in the history of the competition, Spain were the winners in front of an ecstatic home crowd. The most significant damage was done in the second quarter as a one-goal match turned into a 18:10 lead for Spain over the suprisingly underwhelming Danes. Joan Canellas top-scored for the Spanish with 7 and he and his fellow attackers were backed up by a stingy defence and some excellent goalkeeping.
20,000 saw the match in the hall – no doubt a few million more across Spain saw it on TV. It’s the biggest story on the El Pais site right now. The boost that Spanish handball maybe needed. The Danes may be sore but they can look forward to next year and being Euro 2014 hosts.
For now, though, the glory is all Spain’s.
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.
Bless the good people at Premier Sports. The World Championship Final between Spain and Denmark will be live from 4.05pm (match starts 4.15pm) on Sunday 27 January on Sky Channel 428. Free to anyone as well as they’re having a freeview weekend.
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.
There will be an opening ceremony at which pretty people will sing and dance about unity and harmony, and possibly mime throwing a ball into a happy net … and then the players will come on and get down to the nitty gritty of trying to win a world title by brutally beating everyone else. Today there is but one match: the hosts Spain take on Algeria (starting at 6pm UK).
Spain are the 2005 champions, ranked 8th in the world and are hosts. Algeria are ranked 21st in the world and finished second to Tunisia in the 2012 African Championships. The two teams met during qualifying for the Olympics – Spain running out 28:20 winners in Alicante. Anything other than a massive, morale-boosting win for the Spaniards will be a major surprise. Expect the Algerians to push the boundaries of legal defence to the limit if they are to stay close and try and sneak something.
The match isn’t live on UK TV. If you want to watch you’ll need to spend £39.99 subscribing to livehandball.tv (this covers every match in this tournament) or deposit any sum in a Bet365 account and watch the lower quality live streaming there.
Every tournament needs an official song. Some homily to international understanding, peace and harmony accompanied by a video shot through with people waving flags in quasi-jingoist jubilation. The exception – Serbia dressing its female handballers for an evening as escorts – proves the rule. Or at least I assume it does. I have no idea what is being said in the official video for the 2013 Men’s World Handball Championships as, being a proper Englishman, I don’t speak foreign.
My assumption is that it’s all about how the glorious Spanish will triumph over any team caught wearing a #hummelkitnightmare during the forthcoming tournament. The title is ‘Siete Metros’ but the video doesn’t seem to show much happening at the 7m line. Quite an Iberian puzzler.
But even without any knowledge of Spanish it’s a nice enough song in a jangly, almost-indie-90s, sort of way. If I was on Jukebox Jury, I’d say hit.
For the British handball fan with access to the internet, balance on your debit card and time to plan a city break a couple of major events have announced the opening of ticket sales.
First up is the Men’s World Championship which is taking place in Spain in January 2013. Preliminary group day tickets are now available with prices ranging from €10 to €35. So for roughly the price of a League 2 football match you could be sitting in a premium seat watching top level international handball. The plane to Madrid from London is probably cheaper than a train around England as well. Details here.
Then there is the Velux Final 4 which is the culmination of the EHF Champions League in June 2013 and held in Cologne. During the initial sales window 10,000 of the available 19,000 tickets were sold. There are now more available. Last year Final Countdown ‘rockers’ Europe provided the headline for the accompanying entertainment, no word yet on whether The Scorpions will provide the 2013 crowd pleasers. Prices range from €60 to €240 and there are details here.
Before both those tournaments there is the Women’s Euro 2012 taking place in Serbia. Watching 15 top nations battle it out for the right to finish second to Norway should make for pretty decent pre-Christmas entertainment and the men’s edition held earlier this year also in Serbia (the Netherlands withdrew from hosting the women’s event in mid 2012) was notable for the ferocity of the local support and general passion of the crowds. In a mostly good way. Tickets will be available from Monday 17 September with day tickets for the preliminary round starting at €6 which is the price of an average cup of coffee in London. Details here.
Pre-tournament favourites Norway in the end proved too strong for a tenacious Montenegro side in the women’s final last night. The medal was Montenegro’s first-ever Olympic medal. Norway struggled to find their rhythm – missing more shots from open play than they scored – but in the end had too much class and emerged 26:23 winners.
The bronze medal match was a classic. Two periods of extra time were required to separate South Korea and Spain after the Koreans converted a fast-break half a second too late to take the match in normal time. The final score was 31:29 to Spain as the Koreans notably tired throughout the four demanding periods of additional time.
So, the final standings are:
GOLD – Norway, SILVER – Montenegro, BRONZE – Spain
In the end the difference was only a goal but that doesn’t really reflect how much Montenegro were the better team throughout the match. At one point Spain had a shot percentage of 70% (they ended on 60%) but were still behind in the scoreboard – because fundamentally if you’re giving up possession before shooting then you’re going to struggle to win the match.
It was impressive to see how steady Montenegro took the match. They score 4/5 on fast breaks but turned down the opportunity to send the ball quickly down more times than that – preferring to build and then send in a bullet. As well as scoring 6/9 Bojana Popovic always seemed to be on hand to calm things down. The rockets fired in by Katarina Bulatovic, especially from the 7m line, also helped the cause.
Spain on the other hand looked flustered although, as said, their shooting was mostly on the money. They turned over possession too often and could never settle on a pattern to unlock the Montenegrin defence. It was particularly sad at the end to see their goalkeeper Silvia Jimenez unconsolable after such an excellent shot-stopping performance that wasn’t mirrored by the offense.
These are amazing times to be a Montenegrin women’s handball supporter. After Budućnost’s Champions League victory now the national side stand of the brink of an Olympic gold medal. The small matter of Norway stands between them and the title. The Norwegians in the crowd cheered Montenegro, whether out of desire to see the smaller nation win or a feeling that it would be easier for their side I don’t know, but the Beijing winners will have to be on top form to overcome the country that has fought past France and Spain in consecutive rounds.