ROUND REVIEW: Europe in control with seven out of the eight places in the quarter-finals of the World Championship in Qatar
Seven European teams remain in gold medal contention
European sides continue to dominate the 24th Men´s World Championship in Qatar. After the opening knock-out round was completed on Sunday and Monday, an impressive seven out of the eight teams in the quarter-finals are from Europe. Only hosts Qatar have managed to squeeze in among the Europeans.
Reigning world champions Spain had absolutely no problems reaching the quarter-finals, as they faced Tunisia in their first knock-out match.
A huge crowd of enthusiastic Tunisian fans were not able to help their team come even close to a surprise as Spain virtually decided the matter in the first half, going ahead 14:5 in a hurry.
With a nine-goal advantage at half-time, 18:9, Spain could take it a bit easier in the second half with their win never in danger. By the end, the score board in the Lusail Multipurpose Hall of Doha said 28:20 for Spain.
Slovenia, who finished fourth in the last World Championship two years ago in Spain, still have the chance to emulate that achievement.
The Slovenians are among the last eight after winning the Balkan battle against FYR Macedonia 30:28 and the match was just as tight as the final score indicates.
Slovenia were leading almost all the way, including a 16:15 lead at the break, but the Macedonians managed to hang in throughout the 60 minutes.
Croatia, bronze medallist from the 2013 World Championship, had surprisingly big problems against a courageously fighting and tactically well-prepared Brazilian team.
Brazil were in the lead several times, before as well as after the break, at which point the Brazilians were leading 15:13.
As late as with 16 minutes left, Brazil were still in the lead, this time 20:19, but Croatia found their rhythm when it mattered most and managed to secure a narrow 26:25 win.
Host’s hopes still alive
For the second time in this tournament, and for the second time in history, hosts Qatar managed to defeat a European team in a competitive match.
Having beaten Slovenia in the group phase, the Qataris also defeated Austria, but only after a very close match, during which the Austrians were leading for great periods, including a 14:13 lead at the halfway mark.
In the deciding phase of the match, however, Qatar were the more fortunate team and booked their ticket for the nation’s first World Championship quarter-final.
Germany, who are in the tournament thanks to a wild-card, had absolutely no problems against Egypt. An early 4:1 lead was the start of a complete German dominance, and Egypt were lucky to be only down 12:8 lead at half-time.
In the second period, the many Egyptian fans in the Lusail Multipurpose Hall even saw their heroes fall ten goals behind, before Germany eventually emerged 23:16 victors.
Denmark had a comfortable task as well. The silver medallists from the two previous World Championships as well as EHF EURO 2014 dominated the Nordic battle against Iceland from the start.
Racing into a 5:0 lead within the first six minutes, the Danes showed from the beginning that they meant business and already in the first half were leading by six or seven goals for a long stretch before taking a 16:10 lead with them to half-time.
After the break, the Danish dominance continued and led to a 30:25 win with Rasmus Lauge’s six goals leading a balanced Danish attack.
Another all-European meeting was considerably more equal. Sweden and Poland took turns at leading in the first half, before Sweden could go to into the dressing rooms one up at 11:10.
The second half belonged to Poland, though, and from 14:14 they went on to a 24:20 win and a quarter-final berth.
France had an evening where they did not have to sweat much against Argentina. The South Americans had shown quite impressive handball and even more impressive spirit in the group phase, but they did not stand a chance against a solid French team who outplayed them from the start.
Already at half time were France leading by ten goals, 16:6, and the French was extended to 13 goals by the end, 33:20.
Remake of 2013 final
The quarter-finals, which will all be played on Wednesday, will contain a remake of the final from the 2013 World Championship in Spain, as reigning champions Spain take on Denmark, who will try to avoid a fate similar to the infamous 35:19 defeat.
Wednesday 28 January (all times CET):
Photo: Qatar Handball 2015
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
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