Olympics So Far: Handball, Round 2

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Olympics So Far: Handball, Round 2

Women

Flying Dutchwomen hold Swedes to draw

Sweden and the Netherlands tied in a riveting match Friday.

The two sides could hardly have looked more different, as Sweden’s methodical passing attack clashed with a smash-and-grab approach from the Dutch. Sweden’s attack was successful in breaking through the Netherlands’ line, but the strategy resulted in more turnovers than they would have liked.

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Johanna Bundsen made up for it on the other end, though, with eight saves in the first half.

Down but not out, the Dutch struggled when Sweden had time to organize but capitalized on plentiful fast breaks. Jurswailly Luciano and Cornelia Groot could be seen time and time again rushing to catch the Swedes off guard. The Netherlands’ pace kept them in contention despite a career day from Sweden’s Nathalie Hagmann, who scored nearly half of her team’s goals.

After a 6-1 run by the Dutch evaporated Sweden’s lead, the teams were neck and neck until the final whistle, when the Netherlands and a Netherlands-friendly Future Arena crowd celebrated the draw as if it had been a victory.

South Korea starts strong but goes out with a whimper

It’s not often you see a 43-year-old in the Olympics, but even a fantastic outing from one of the oldest athletes at Rio could not save South Korea.

Oh Yongran had a brilliant night in goal, holding France to 21 points, but her team missed out on the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

As in their previous matches, South Korea went up big early but lacked stamina. They failed to score for over eight minutes as the first half came to a close, allowing French right back Alexandra Lacrabère to bring her team storming back.

Both times faltered in the second half, as a nearly unheard-of five minutes passed without a goal, but the French found their form and their keeper, Amandine Leynaud, racked up the saves as the Koreans ran out of steam. Oh was making great saves til the bitter end, but France won comfortably, 21-17.

Norway puts on a clinic

The Norwegians were merciless against a winless Montenegrin side, cruising to a 28-19 win.

The game had a Globetrotters-Generals feel, highlighted by Veronica Kristiansen’s behind-the-back-assist to Camilla Herrem in the first half. 25-year-old phenom Nora Mork led her team with six goals as keeper Kari Aalvik Grimsbo recorded a stunning 60% save rate.

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The Nordic conquerors clinched a quarterfinal spot and look like the team to beat in this tournament.

Hosts win, Russia dominates as Romania and Spain fight for quarterfinal spots

Despite being leapfrogged on goal differential after Norway’s big win, Brazil are also through to the next round, having seen off Angola 28-24 on the strength of a seven-goal day for Ana Paula Belo.

Russia are through as well, claiming the top spot in Group B with a 35-29 win over Argentina. Russia’s haphazard first half nearly handed the Argentines the match, but Anna Yvakhireva took over late in the game, netting three goals and sending the Russians on an 8-0 run that led to a comfortable victory.

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Also on Friday, Cristina Neagu scored nine goals and keeper Paula Ungureanu saved 42% of the shots she faced as Romania rebounded from their opening losses, improving to 2-2 with a win over Spain. The Romanians earned seven penalties and held firm when their own mistakes gave the Spaniards what could have been a pivotal power play. A Neagu goal brought the final score to 24-21, meaning both teams have an outside shot of making the quarterfinals.

Men

Croatia hands France dramatic first loss

Another fantastic showing from keeper Ivan Peši? helped Croatia to an upset of France Saturday.

Croatia kept France’s attack at bay as well as any team has so far, going into halftime with the lead. As the rest of the day proved, however, everything can change in the final minutes of a handball game.

France drew level with three minutes to go after a save by keeper Thierry Omeyer sparked a lightning-fast goal from Valentin Porte. Croatia, who had been in foul trouble all day, got one goal back, but when a red card against the Croats sent France’s Michael Guigou to the seven-meter line a draw looked inevitable.

France was perfect from the penalty line all day – until the last shot. Peši?’s save stunned the French and earned Croatia a spot in the quarterfinals.

The French will not be too unhappy, though, as they had already qualified.

Hansen’s winner puts Denmark through

Qatar kept Denmark on their toes, but former World Player of the Year Mikkel Hansen’s last-second shot spoiled the gulf nation’s upset hopes.

With the clock ticking down and the score tied at 25, Hansen picked up a loose ball and sent it home, keeping his team tied for the lead in Group A.

Though they capitalized on Danish mistakes in the second half, Qatar struggled to create shooting opportunities. They took their chances – Žarko Markovi?, formerly of Montenegro, netted seven goals – but as the game wore on it was Denmark setting the pace.

The Danes can be confident of a quarterfinal berth, while Qatar must fend off Argentina Monday to punch their ticket.

Brazil draws with Egypt, will fight for quarterfinal spot Monday

Egypt found a way to contain their hosts’ energy, earning a 27-all draw with Brazil.

A tough Egyptian side knocked Brazil’s offense, usually fluid and difficult to mark, off its game, despite another enthusiastic showing from the home crowd.

Egypt looked ready to pull off an upset until the opening of the second half, when they were repeatedly foiled by Brazilian keeper Maik dos Santos, one of the standouts of the tournament.

It was a save by dos Santos that set up a powerful, game-tying goal by Haniel Langaro with less than two minutes to go. Another brilliant reaction by the keeper kept out what would have been a game-winning penalty shot from Ahmed Elahmar. Those heroics kept Brazil ahead of Egypt in third place in Group B, but with one game to go they are still not assured a spot in the next round.

Germany and Argentina stay afloat, Sweden embarrassed

Earlier Saturday, Germany downed Slovenia in what counts as low-scoring game for handball, 28-25. Sitting at first and second in Group B, respectively, both teams look likely to move on.

After three excellent but unsuccessful outings, Argentina edged cellar-dwelling Tunisia, grabbing the lead early and never looking back. An upset of Qatar Monday could make them the underdog story of the tournament, and given Qatar’s hiring practices you can bet that plenty of people will be rooting for the Argentines.

In the after-dinner game, Poland pulled off a very upsetting upset against Sweden, whose sloppy play while their net was unguarded allowed the Poles to take the lead in the final minutes. Sweden had been picked by many to challenge for gold after winning silver in London four years ago. That dream is over, as the Swedes have not won a single match in Rio.

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