Drama-packed weekend as last Tokyo 2020 berths decided
The women’s qualification tournaments for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games delivered plenty of thrills as Norway, Montenegro, Russia, Hungary, Sweden and Spain secured the six places up for grabs over the weekend.
With eight European teams in the running for the last tickets to Tokyo 2020, two had to miss out – and it was Serbia and Romania who left their respective qualification tournaments disappointed.
The lineup for the women’s competition at the Tokyo 2020 Games is now complete, with the six successful teams from the qualification events joining already qualified fellow European sides France and the Netherlands. From outside Europe, hosts Japan, Angola, Brazil and Republic of Korea will compete in the women’s Olympic handball competition from 25 July to 8 August.
Tournament 1 – Llíria (ESP, SWE)
Sweden were the first to secure their Tokyo 2020 place, when they defeated Argentina 34:21 in the second match of their three-team qualification tournament on Saturday.
With the win, the Scandinavian side took their points tally to three, after they opened with a draw against Spain, 28:28, on Friday. Sweden had been on the path to victory versus the tournament hosts but conceded three goals in just over 90 seconds leading up to the buzzer, and Spain celebrated the draw as a win.
On Sunday, Spain played Argentina in a direct duel that would decide the second place from Tournament 1. The European team recorded an emphatic victory, 31:16, that booked their place at the Games.
For Sweden, it is the fourth straight Olympic Games participation; for Spain it is the third consecutive and fifth Olympics overall.
Tournament 2 – Györ (RUS, SRB, HUN)
Tournament 2 saw both decisions on day two, as Russia and Hungary earned the maximum points after two matches and clinched the Olympic berths.
Hungary beat Kazakhstan 46:19 on Friday, before Russia won against the same opponent 33:26 on Saturday. Versus Serbia, Russia secured a 29:24 victory on Friday while Hungary won 31:23 on Saturday.
Serbia earned their first win of the qualification on day three, but the 42:30 result against Kazakhstan was not enough as Serbia settled into third position on the table. Later on Sunday, Russia and Hungary met to determine first place, with Russia collecting a commanding win, 29:23.
For Hungary, it is the first Olympic Games participation since 2008, while Russia aim to defend their title from 2016.
Tournament 3 – Podgorica (NOR, MNE, ROU)
Tournament 3, featuring only Norway, Montenegro and Romania, saw absolute drama from start to finish.
On Friday, Montenegro shocked EHF EURO 2020 winners Norway as they recorded their biggest win ever against the Scandinavian team, 28:23 – and only their second in history, after the memorable EHF EURO final in Belgrade in 2012.
Norway therefore entered their second match, on Saturday against Romania, under pressure — a loss would have seen the EHF EURO champions out of contention. On the other hand, a victory of six goals would have assured Norway passage to Tokyo 2020. In the end Norway took a 29:24 win, which left their fate entirely up to the result of the match between Montenegro and Romania.
On Sunday, fighting for not only a win but a victory of enough to erase the goal difference in the three-way tie, Romania were behind Montenegro with five minutes remaining in the pivotal match. But the EHF EURO 2018 semi-finalists suddenly found another gear and grabbed the upper hand to finish with a three-goal win, 28:25.
However, the win was entirely bitter, as it meant that Romania were just two goals shy of the Olympic berth in the goal difference calculation. Instead, Montenegro and Norway celebrated qualification for the Games.
Cristina Neagu had an exceptional weekend for Romania, netting 12 goals versus Montenegro and 11 against Norway to pass the 900-goal mark in her national team career.
Photo © 2020 Anze Malovrh / kolektiffimages