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11.12.2011, 15:32
European dominance, but Germany fail
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11 of 12 teams from Europe reach the knock-out stage of the Women’s World Championship in Brazil
 

Björn Pazen

11 of 12 teams from Europe reach the knock-out stage of the Women’s World Championship in Brazil

After 60 matches, the Preliminary Round of the XX Women’s World Championship in Brazil has come to an end and as expected Europe plays the key role in this competition, which is highly important for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

11 of 12 teams from Europe have made their way to the ‘Eight Final’ knock-out stage, which starts on Sunday 11 December. Only Germany missed the round of the last sixteen teams and with it their Olympic qualification dream came to an end - the Eight Final will see five all-European duels.

In contrast Denmark, EHF EURO 2010 champions Norway and defending World champions Russia have won their respective groups with hosts Brazil making up the quartet of group winners.

2011WchBrazilCROvDEN560

Summary of the Preliminary Round

Group A - Santos

This group was full of surprises and mathematical calculations until the final whistle of the last match. In the end Norway made their way through despite losing their opener against Germany – and no single team was able to win all their matches.

The biggest surprise team was Iceland however. In their first ever World Championship campaign they sensationally beat top nations like Montenegro and Germany, qualifying for the eight-finals, where they have to face the Russians.

Norway recovered easily from their opening defeat, winning all their other matches, including the highlight of the group - the final clash against Montenegro (28:27). The Balkan team – one of the favourites for the semi-finals have been like a rollercoaster, but took third place in the end below, another surprise team, African champions Angola, who finished the German dream with a 25:22 victory on the last match day.

The Germans were far beyond their possibilities after their victory over Norway – and the defeats against Iceland and Angola meant that they are the only European team to play in the President’s Cup for places 17–20, starting against Kazakhstan on Sunday 11 December.

Group B - Barueri

The unstoppable Russians taught each of their five opponents a lesson and were the most dominant of all 24 teams in Brazil in the first stage of the competition.

They scored more goals (181) than any other team, had the third best defence (99 conceded goals) and their tactics were diverse against all the teams they faced. The defending champions are the clear favourites currently, beating their major opponents Spain and Korea clearly and have a squad of 16 strong players.  It will be hard for anyone to stop them on the way to their fifth World Championship title in 10 years.

Spain ranked second in the group after their tough, decisive match against Korea (29:26), but their top star Martha Mangue has been suffering from knee problems. This could be an enormous problem in the all-European top clash in the eight-final against Montenegro.

Below the third placed Koreans the Netherlands fought bravely, but were chanceless against their main contenders – and they are the underdog in their eight-final against Norway.

Group C - Sao Paulo

EHF Women’s Champions League experience combined with a frenetic audience, Danish coach and great fighting spirit; these are the ingredients of the Brazilian flight on the wings of success.

With 11 players from top European clubs the South Americans now have the skills and the knowledge to beat opponents from Europe. The hosts – winning their group with five victories in five matches – showed the greatest and most spectacular catch-up chase in the current tournament. 10:17 down against the world class team of France at the half-time break, they allowed only five French goals in the second half and secured a 26:22 victory, which was the key for them ranking first in their group.

France was highly disappointed, taking this out on Romania in the last encounter, beating the EHF EURO 2010 bronze medallist 39:20. In the eight-final France will face Sweden, another medallist from EHF EURO 2010 – and if they win they will have the rematch of the 2009 World Championship final against Russia in the quarter-finals.

Aside from Germany, Romania was the negative surprise from the European point of view. Missing several key players like Cristina Neagu, Paula Ungureanu and Ionela Stanca, the Voina team have been weak in nearly every position and were far beyond their normal performance standard. Ranking third in the end, the eight-final against Croatia will be a tough challenge, if they do not improve. Romania only drew with Japan, the fourth ranked team.

Group D - Sao Bernardo do Campo

The most unequal of all the groups in the World Championship saw an early decision of those teams among the top three with the direct duels of Denmark, Sweden and Croatia finalising the ranking.

Despite missing eight players from their successful EHF EURO 2010 squad Denmark made their way to be number one with five victories in five matches. The Danes had the best defence of all teams, conceding only 78 goals – and the young and hungry team of coach Jan Pytlick showed their usual strength in attack by scoring from the wing positions and via their counter attack.

In the clash for the second place Croatia was the lucky winner over Sweden in the end with a narrow 27:26 victory. The three non-European teams in this group – Ivory Coast (fourth quarter-finalist), Uruguay and Argentina did not prove any hurdle to the top three.

Winning the eight-final does not only mean to be among the eight best teams of the World Championship, but also a highly probable pass through to the Olympic Qualification Tournaments, played from 25–27 May 2012.

The composition of the eight finals (all times are local Brazilian times):

Sunday 11 December

Barueri

14:30: Russia – Iceland

17:15: Spain – Montenegro

Santos

14:30: Angola – Korea

17:15: Norway – Netherlands

Monday, 12 December

Sao Paulo

14:30: France – Sweden

20:00: Brazil – Ivory Coast

Sao Bernardo do Campo

14:30: Croatia – Romania

17:15: Denmark – Japan
 


TEXT: Andrew McSteen
 
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