Full European armada sail to the knock-out stage
The preliminary round of the women’s World Championship came to an end on Friday evening – and before the last of five rounds even took place, all twelve European participants had clinched their berth for the Last 16.
At least four European teams will make it to the quarter-finals, as four all-European fixtures will take place on Sunday and Monday in Belgrade and Novi Sad.
France, Norway and Germany finished their group matches with a clean record as did Pan American champions Brazil. Reigning EHF EURO champions Montenegro ranked second in the French Group A and Serbia finished below Brazil in Group B.
Thanks to their brilliant defence and goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud, France turned their crucial matches against Montenegro and Korea around in the last minutes.
“We were very lucky,” said new coach Alain Portes after beating the EHF EURO champions by the decisive goal for the 17:16 victory scored 20 seconds before the end.
Montenegro ranked second by winning four games ahead of the Asian champions Korea, who took a goalscoring record by beating the Dominican Republic by 51:20. Netherlands easily beat two of their three Non-European rivals to clinch their berth for the knock-out stage, while – as expected – the Dominicans and DR Congo continue in the President’s Cup.
They danced samba in Nis: The Pan American champions Brazil including eight players and coach Morten Soubak of Hypo Niederösterreich were dominant – and proved their medal ambitions by victories against host Serbia and former EHF EURO champions Denmark.
“We are ready for a big things,” said current World Handball Player of the Year, Alexandra do Nascimento. Host Serbia – boosted by their frenetic spectators – took the decisive, but close win against Denmark to rank second in the end, while Japan took fourth spot to make it to the Last 16 ahead of China and Algeria.
Defending world champions Norway decided the final ranking of this group in their opener against Olympic bronze medallist Spain, but the 22:20 was really lucky.
The Iberians won the remaining four matches – including a very special first half against Paraguay, which ended by 14:0. Poland ranked third, while the African champions Angola also booked the ticket for the Last 16 ahead of the Pan Americans from Argentina and Paraguay.
From zero to hero was the title of the German campaign in Novi Sad. After missing the knock-out stage two years ago at Brazil, now the team of Danish born coach Heine Jensen surprised all their opponents by winning five times in a dominant way, including the crucial matches against Romania and Hungary.
The Germans were boosted by the in total 45 goals of Susann Müller, current top scorer of the competition. After losing the neighbour’s duel against Romania by 17:21, EHF EURO 2012 bronze medallist Hungary finished below the 2010 EHF EURO bronze medallist but ahead of the Czech Republic. Tunisia and Australia continue in the President’s cup.
12 of the 16 teams in the Last 16 are European, two from Asia and each one from Africa and Pan-America – including all continental champions of those four continents.
Those are the fixtures for the eighth-finals to be carried out on Sunday and Monday in Belgrade and Novi Sad:
Sunday, 15 December:
18:00 hrs. local time: France vs. Japan
20:45 hrs. local time: Denmark vs. Montenegro
17:30 hrs. local time: Germany vs. Angola
20:15 hrs. local time: Poland vs. Romania
Monday, 16 December:
18:00 hrs. local time: Brazil vs. Netherlands
20.45 hrs. local time: Korea vs. Serbia
17:30 hrs. local time: Hungary – Spain
20:15 hrs. local time: Norway vs. Czech Republic
The quarter-finals will be played on Wednesday, 18 December in Belgrade and Novi Sad, followed by the semi-finals on 20 December in Belgrade and the bronze final and final on 22 December in Belgrade.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor