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.
Drama aplenty today … here’s how the matches ended:
Russia 27:28 Slovenia
Spain 28:24 Germany
Denmark 28:26 Hungary
France 23:30 Croatia
The semi finals are:
Slovenia v Spain
Denmark v Croatia
and they will both be played in Barcelona on 25 January.
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.
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 …
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.
In a final that was refreshing for being competitive from start to finish and in which the result wasn’t clear until the end Denmark emerged victorious by edging out Russia 27:26. The winning goal officially timed at 30:00 in the second half.
The Danes owned a 15:12 advantage at half time but were pegged back before Russia looked like the most likely to open up a decisive break. The Russians led 22:20 at one point before Denmark levelled at 24:24 and a nervous series of attacks in the final ten minutes saw neither side able to assert themselves.
With thirty seconds left the scores were tied and Russia had the ball – but after a steady build-up their shot went wide and a ludicrous fast break from Denmark saw Freja Kyndbal somehow score whilst the Russian defence tried everything to stop her. There was no time left for a response: cue celebrations for the team in red; despondency for the team in blue. Anne mett Hansen was player of the match with 8 goals from 12 shots.
It’s the second title at this level for the Danes. Norway take the bronze after a 36:30 win over Romania. The hosts will be pretty disappointed to wind up finishing 11th. And for the record the tournament’s top scorer was Aleksandrova Irina of Kazakhstan who powered in 62 goals.
If you want to relive any of the final, it’s here.
After two surprisingly straightforward semi finals the hope is that Russia and Denmark are closely enough matched (they are both unbeaten in the tournament) that the final should be a classic.
Denmark were four up against Romania by the break before running out eventual winners 39:28. Mette Tranborg top-scored for the Danes with 9 goals.
In the other match Russia took over the match after early exchanges of goals. By half time they led by 6 and despite Norway occasionally looking like they might pull it back they never got close enough to really trouble the Russians. The final score was 33:27.
The final will be available here and starts at 5.15pm UK. The bronze medal match is at 3pm UK.