Six European teams proceed to the last 16 at the 2013 World Championship, while Montenegro return home empty-handed
First four matches of the knock-out stage confirmed
Six European teams from Preliminary Round groups A and B made it to the knock-out stage at the Men’s 2013 World Championship in Spain.
Only Montenegro missed the round of the last 16 following five defeats in five matches.
The final rankings of the first two finished Preliminary Round groups are as follows:
A: 1. Germany; 2. France; 3. Brazil; 4. Tunisia; 5. Argentina; 6. Montenegro
B: 1. Denmark; 2. Russia; 3. Iceland; 4. FYR Macedonia; 5. Qatar; 6. Chile
Surprisingly it was the German team that finished on top of Group A after they had become the only squad that managed to defeat world and Olympic champions France on the final match-day.
Germany had started their campaign in Spain weakly. The team lost against Tunisia and was on the edge of being defeated by Argentina, but then the young team improved clearly.
France were the first to qualify for the knock-out stage in this group following three very confident performances and a hard-earned opening victory against Tunisia.
The African champions were the big surprise package in this group, but nearly stumbled on their way to the knock-out stage. However, thanks to their final victory they clinched the berth behind Brazil that did not only win the Pan-American duel against Argentina butt also beat Tunisia and even Montenegro.
Denmark dominate Group B
In Group B 2012 EHF EURO champions Denmark were the clearly dominating team in all departments – a stable defence, high-speed efficient wings and top shooters like Mikkel Hansen or Nikolaj Markussen from the back court positions were the main factors that saw them top the group with the maximum of five wins.
Despite European top competitors, the Danes kept a clear record in Sevilla.
The biggest surprise in Group B was Russia. After missing the world championship for the first time in 2011 as well as the London 2012 Olympics, the change of coaches caused a splendid return.
With much more speed and a modern style the team of Oleg Kuleshov finally ranked second, only beaten by Denmark.
The key to this position was the clear opening victory against Iceland which misses several top players in Spain.
But led by youngster Aron Palmarsson and goalkeeper Björgvin Gustafsson, they beat FYR Macedonia and took the third position ahead of the fourth European team in group, which again could count on the goals of their top scorer Kiril Lazarov.
In their final match they were close to beat Denmark, but in the end, the Danes had more power and speed.
Qatar and Chile were without a chance against their European competitors, but Qatar showed – compared to former competitions – that they are on the right way two years before hosting the 2015 World Championship.
Argentina and Qatar will compete for the positions 17 to 20 in the President’s Cup, Montenegro and Chile for the positions 21 to 24.
In the Last 16 matches on Sunday two all-European clashes will decide the quarter-finalists when Germany face FYR Macedonia and France compete against Iceland in Barcelona.
Russia (against Brazil) and Denmark (against Tunisia) are supposed to be the favourites for reaching the next stage.
The fixtures are as follows:
20 January, Barcelona:
Last 16 match 6: Germany – FYR Macedonia (15.45 hrs local times)
Last 16 match 3: Iceland – France (20.15 hrs local times)
20 January, Zaragoza:
Last 16 match 7: Brazil – Russia (17.30 hrs local time)
Last 16 matchg 1: Denmark – Tunisia (20.15 hrs local time)
Photos: Courtesy of IHF photographers Uros Hocevar and Stephane Pillaud
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
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