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:
If you haven’t already done so locate the a full replay of the Fuechse Berlin v Barcelona match and don’t answer the phone for the next two hours. Your life will be much better for it.
Having done that, let’s look over this weekend’s results in the men’s and women’s Champions League – and also see the fixtures for this week’s matches. Starting with the men …
The leadership of Group A switched hands following the draw between Chekhovskiye Medvedi and HSV Hamburg – their second tie in the group stage. The lack of winner opened the way for SG Flensburg-Handewitt who took advantage by overwhelming Partizan Belgrade. Those three have qualified. The fourth place is between Ademar Leon of Spain and Montpellier. In their head-to-head it was the Spaniards who emerged victorious 30:28. Both teams now sit on five points with two matches remaining.
Group B remains tight with only the super soaraway leaders of MKB Veszprém and the annoyingly consistent THW Kiel assured of qualification. They both won again at the weekend – by a combined margin of 21 goals. Atletico Madrid did their qualification chances no harm at all with a win over Celje Pivovarna Laško – realistically with 8 points they are now through. The other three can scrap amongst themselves for the final qualifying berth.
Two teams in Group C have a solitary win to their name but at least one of those, Chambery, can also say they have known only victories in 2013. They will need two more wins and a lot of luck to overturn the team they beat, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg of Denmark, but at least they are still alive. Gorenje, Metalurg and Vive Targi Kielce are already through.
In Group D we had the aforementioned belter between Fuechse Berlin and the Catalan Supermen. It ended with victory for the Germans. Somehow. Elsewhere, Croatia Zagreb have appealed the result in their defeat to Dinamo Minsk based on a player returning prematurely in the 2 minutes and Kadetten Schahffhausen smashed Pick Szeged. It’s one from Zagreb, Szeged and Schaffhausen for the final spot.
We’re into the Main Round (Second Group Stage) in the women’s Champions League. In Group A, the powerhouses are looking powerful. Larvik have now won two from two and this time out edged a tight one in Buducnost. Gyori Audi had an occasionally tough and always noisy game in Denmark in Randers but took the points. It’s looking good for Gyori and Larvik to progress.
Similarly in Group B, two teams have two wins: Krim Ljubljana beat Romanian opponents Oltchim Ramnicu Vâlcea 28:24 and Ferencvaros (they’re called FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria for sponsorship kicks) edged a very close one (but not defensively great) against the Russians Zvezda Zvenigorod.
This week’s fixtures which will all be covered live (and legal) by ehftv.com – over on Premier Sports it looks like ice hockey is being shown when the match of the week would be on so we’re internet-only in the UK – are below:
Wednesday 6pm (UK): SG Flensburg-Handewitt – Reale Ademar Leon
Thursday 7pm – Kadetten Schaffhausen v Fuechse Berlin
Saturday 3pm – St Petersburg v Metalurg
Saturday 3.15pm – Barcelona v Croatia Zagreb
Saturday 3.30pm – Celje Pivovarna Lasko – HCM Constanta
Saturday 4pm – Vive Targi Kielce – Chambery
Saturday 4.15pm – Pick Szeged v Dinamo Minsk
Saturday 6pm – Partizan Belgrade – HSV Hamburg
Sunday 4pm – Atletico Madrid v IK Savehof
Sunday 4pm – Bjerringbro-Silkeborg – Gorenje Velenje
Sunday 6pm – THW Kiel – MKB Veszprem (Match of the Week – Commentary in English)
Sunday 6pm – Montpellier – Chekhovskiye Medvedi
Saturday 4.45pm – Larvik v Gyori Audi
Saturday 5pm – Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea v Zvezda Zvenigorod
Sunday 2.15pm – Krim Liubljani v Ferencvaros Rail Cargo Hungaria
Sunday 6pm – Randers v Buducnost
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.
Tomorrow sees the return of the EHF Women’s Champions League with the first match of the main round. The ‘Main Round’ is the second group stage of the competition wherein the eight remaining teams slug it out for the semi final spots. This weekend, oddly(*), sees only the one match but it could be a good one: the Scandinavian ‘derby’ between the Norwegians of Larvik and the Danes of Randers.
Randers finished second in their group with a three wins, three losses record and were dependent on a final game victory over Hypo Niederoesterreich to progress. Larvik were Champions League winners in 2011 but were overwhelmed by winners Buducnost in the semi finals last year. The bookies make Larvik 1/8 favourites and in their two previous Champions League meetings (in 2010) they were indeed comfortable winners. But if for no other reason than it’s good both to have the Champions League back and handball available in the UK via decent streams let’s hang on to the idea that it might be a bit closer than all that suggests.
(* = It’s because the Larvik arena is double-booked next weekend).
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.
The IHF has taken a break from not providing useful TV coverage of the forthcoming World Championships in the UK to announce the winners of the IHF World Player of the Year for both men and women.
In the men’s category Daniel Narcisse of THW Kiel and France won 25% of the vote. He finished ahead of Mikkel Hansen, the shaggy Dane who plays for PSG who Narcisse is tipped by people better informed than me to be joining at the end of the year(*). The award caps a ‘not bad’ year in which he won Olympic gold alongside Champions League and Bundesliga titles.
There was something of a first in the women’s award as it heads to Brazil for the first time. Alexandra do Nascimento plays for Hypo Niederösterreich who routinely win the league and cup double in Austria, and for the Brazilian national team who finished 6th in the 2012 Olympics. Winning 28% of the vote, do Nascimento finished ahead of Heidi Løke who won the award last year.
Narcisse will, of course, be strutting his stuff for France in the World Championships that start in three days time. First up for the man officially nicknamed by the IHF as ‘Air France’ will be Tunisia. I suspect he will get ample opportunity to show off why he won the award.
As an aside, should you have any pumping needs please consider Grundfos who sponsor these awards. They provide pumping solutions for any situation.
(* = Since writing this I have now seen a photo of Daniel Narcisse shaking hands in front of a giant PSG badge. I assume that’s positive for the Parisians.)
At some point this stopped being just a match between the two best teams in the tournament and became the kind of experience every sports fan dreams about. This match had everything: it had double extra time and in each period of that there was a reffing controversy, it had a lead that changed hands, momentum that swung and, in the end, it had heroes.
Those heroes could be found throughout the Montenegro side. From the goalkeeper Sonja Barjaktarovic who played the full eighty minutes and made 17 saves to Milena Knezevic who found the net 10 times, and then there was Katarina Bulatovic who was on court for over an hour and whose own performance summed up that of her team: bruised, defiant, victorious.
But on the losing side too, there were some great performances. Anja Edin, again, was a focus for so much in defence and attack although she’ll be disappointed with only a 4/10 shooting return and Ida Alstad led with 11 goals, including three in the second half of the first period of extra time to overturn what had looked like an unassailable Norwegian lead. But some players were muted, in particular, Linn Jorum Sulland could only manage three goals from eight shots.
At the final hooter, Heidi Loke remonstrated with the officials for her two minute suspension which had been the catalyst for Montenegro’s final, final charge for the title – but then Montenegro could counter that but for the very harsh two minutes given to Katarina Bulatovic in the first extra time there would have been no opportunity for Alstad’s equalising heroics.
Type ‘Montenegro’ into google news right now and all you see is women’s handball. There is nothing else on the ticker. Perhaps the place closes on Sunday. What isn’t in doubt is how much this means to both the players on the court and the nation they represent.
And that’s before the impact on women’s handball that somebody, at last, has beaten Norway.
If you feel up to it, you can watch it all again here: