Serbia continue their dream, EHF EURO champions already out
The first round of the knock-out stage at the Women’s World Championship in Serbia saw the early elimination of EHF EURO 2012 champions Montenegro after getting defeated by Denmark in the Last 16.
Seven European teams and Brazil compete in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, including the top encounter of Norway against host Serbia. Additionally Denmark vs Germany, Hungary vs Brazil and France vs Poland complete the pairings.
Four teams in the quarter-finals are led by coaches from one country for the first time: Denmark (Jan Pytlick), Germany (Heine Jensen), Poland (Kim Rasmussen) and Brazil (Morten Soubak) have Danish coaches.
France vs Japan 27:19 (12:9)
For 43 minutes France were shaken by the Japanese, then a 10:0 run from 15:17 to 25:17 secured their fourth straight participation in a World Championship Quarter-final and their sixth victory from six in Serbia. As the Asians did not score any goal for 16 minutes, France finally ended up with a clear victory.
“Japan caused us a lot of problems and played a fantastic game for 45 minutes, now we are delighted to be among the eight best teams,” said French coach Alain Portes. Aside this 10:0 run the defence including goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud was another key for success.
As for Japan, they were eliminated in the Last 16 just like two years ago in Brazil, when they lost against Denmark after extra-time. Japanese coach Masamichi Kuriyama said: “I am a little bit disappointed that we lost the game but we got beaten by a world-class team and I am very proud how my team performed in this match.”
Germany vs Angola 29:21 (13:10)
In 2011 they finished 17th, now the Germans have the chance to go to the semi-finals after their sixth consecutive win. After hitting the post seven times in the first 12 minutes, Germany took control very easily against the African champions, who had eliminated them from the knock-out stage in 2011 in Brazil.
After a three goal advance at the break, Germany profited from their physical advantage and the six goals of top scorer Laura Steinbach helped them forge ahead to a decisive 21:13 lead.
Danish born German coach Heine Jensen, who will face his country-fellows in the quarter-final, was very satisfied: “I think it was a well-deserved success. We kept calm when we hit the post several times in the beginning of the match.”
Denmark vs Montenegro 22:21 (11:12)
What a thriller, what tension, what a Danish celebration. The young team of coach Jan Pytlick eliminated EHF EURO champions and Olympic silver medallist after a brave and emotional fight. Like in 2011, when they lost their first knock-out match against Spain, the Balkan team missed out on a chance to compete for medals.
The whole match was even throughout the game. While Montenegro counted on their back court snipers Katarina Bulatovic (top scorer with seven goals) and Milena Knezevic, the Danes were backed by the 15 saves by goalkeeper Cecilie Greve and a brilliant second half performance of Louise Burgaard, who scored five of her six goals after the break.
Finally it was her to score the winning strike for 22:21, the last Montenegrin shot of Bulatovic hit the net – but after the final buzzer.
“We stood very well in defence today and that was the key to victory. In my opinion, we were quicker than Montenegro and that was also essential,” said Danish coach Jan Pytlick, while his Montenegrin counterpart Dragan Adzic congratulated Denmark for a “memorable victory.”
“I am sad that we have made an early exit from the World Championship but I am also proud of these girls, nonetheless. They have done so much for Montenegrin sport and the country in general; hence they can leave the Belgrade Arena with their heads held high,” said Adzic.
Poland vs Romania 31:29 (13:17)
“This was a huge step for Polish women’s handball,” said Danish born coach Kim Rasmussen, after his team had turned the match around by a brilliant comeback.
After a four goal lead at the break, Romania seemed to be on the road to victory, when they were ahead by 20:15. However, the Polish team, boosted by the nine goal haul of Alina Wojtas, did not surrender.
They reduced the gap goal by goal to equalise at 26:26, adding three more strikes to decide the match at 29:26 against a Romanian side including Cristina Neagu, who contributed with 10 goals.
“Unlike us the Polish team fought until the end,” said Gheorghe Tadici, coach of Romania.
Brazil vs Netherlands 29:23 (16:14)
The Dutch team stood strong for a long time, but in the end Brazil were lucky and took their sixth consecutive victory in Serbia. The Pan-Americans were backed by the saves of Hypo Niederösterreich goalkeeper Barbara Arenhart and again get themselves among the best eight teams.
“We are satisfied with the result, but we played weaker than before against Denmark,” said Danish born Brazilian coach Morten Soubak.
Despite six goals by their top scorer Lois Abbingh, Netherlands were eliminated in the Last 16, like in 2011, when they were hopeless against eventual champions Norway. This time, they stayed level until ten minutes before the end against the Pan-American champions.
Brazil decided the match when they forged from 23:20 to 27:22 ahead with four minutes to play. Despite the defeat, Dutch coach Henk Groener was not fully disappointed: “Brazil deserved to win, but my players played their hearts out.”
Hungary vs Spain 28:21 (17:12)
In contrast to 2011, Olympic and world bronze medallist Spain missed the quarter-final – and it was all they deserved, as the Hungarians were clearly the better team throughout the full 60 minutes.
Backed by the saves of goalkeeper Orsolya Herr and by six goals from Anita Görbicz, the Hungarians were ahead by 17:11 before the break, and even as the Iberians improved in the middle of the second half, they were shaken, but did not fall and the match was decided when Hungary lead 25:20 in the latter stages.
Although his side were clear winners, Hungarian coach Janos Hajdu said: “It was a difficult victory. But to be honest, by now the whole tournament is difficult for my team.”
Spanish coach Jorge Duenas was down after the defeat: “This was our worst game of this championship.”
Korea vs Serbia 27:28 (12:13)
It was like an earthquake shaking the Kombank Arena, when Jelena Eric hit the net for 28:27 at the final buzzer. After an incredible thriller, the World Championship host danced on the court, while the brave Asian champions left the hall heads hung low.
In the middle of the second half, none of the 8,000 plus crowd expected a thrilling endgame, as the Serbs were clearly ahead by 20:14. But Korea suddenly got their second wind, shocking the fans with the equaliser at 25:25 despite the brilliant performance of Serbian goalkeeper Katarina Tomasevic.
Despite two more leads (26:25, 27:26), the Serbs could not decide the match. When Eun Hee Ryu equalised again, less than 15 seconds before the end, everybody expected an extra-time, before the Eric hammer shook the arena.
“We deserved to win this match, and our fans could really enjoy a vastly entertaining encounter,” said Serbian coach Sasa Boskovic.
Norway vs Czech Republic 31:21 (19:10)
Norway fulfilled their expected role in the most one-sided Last 16 match. The defending world champions easily marched ahead to 12:6 and the halftime score of 19:10.
After the break they only did what they had to do to earn a comprehensive win. The biggest gap was 13 goals.
“I am happy with our good defence which enabled us to start our counter attacks. I think that was the key for the victory,” said Norwegian coach Thorir Hergeirsson after the sixth consecutive win for his team.
These are the fixtures for the quarter-finals on Wednesday, 18 December:
17:30 hrs. local time: France vs. Poland
20:15 hrs. local times: Germany vs. Denmark
17.30 hrs. local time: Brazil vs. Hungary
20:15 hrs. local time: Norway vs. Serbia
TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor