On Sunday evening the women’s preliminary round of the Olympic Games came to an end in the Copper Box in London. Six European teams have made their way to the quarter-finals: Croatia, Russia and Montenegro in group A and France, Norway and Spain group B.
Besides, Brazil as winner of the group A and Korea qualified for the knock-out stage. As each two European teams face in direct duels, at least 50 percent of the semi-finalists will come from Europe – and as the winners of those encounters face in the semi, at least one European team will reach the final.
Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain and Angola were eliminated after the preliminary round.
The winner of quarter-final 1 faces the winner of match 4 in the semi-finals; the winner of match 2 faces the winner of the match 3. The semi-finals are played on Thursday 9 August in the Basketball Arena.
Summary Group A
Olympic debutants Croatia were the biggest surprise in this group. The Croats finished with four victories and a highly close opening defeat against Brazil. They finished on the second position – ahead of much more experienced teams like Russia or Montenegro. The biggest Croatian clash was the 30-28 victory against four-time world champion Russia.
The Russians – one of the big medal contenders –could not reach their usual level, especially in attack, though they were the only team to beat group winner Brazil (31-27). But aside losing against Croatia they gave a point against Montenegro from their hands, which caused rank three instead of one.
Montenegro ranked fourth in the end, but was at no time on the level their players had been on, when winning the EHF Champions League with Buducnost Podgorica in May. The best performance was the draw against Russia.
Great Britain expectedly finished sixth in their group and last of the tournament. The debutant had at least hoped for a sensation against Angola, but failed five times. Team captain Lynn McCafferty finished her career but Danish born coach Jesper Holmris want to remain in his position.
Summary Group B
France was the most constant and dominant team of the overall women’s preliminary round. The World Championship runners-up had started with a close but deserved victory against defending Olympic, European and World Champion Norway. Despite weak 40 minutes in their lucky draw with Spain, France played highly efficient showing a strong defence and finished the first stage as the only unbeaten team after victories against Korea, Sweden and Denmark.
Norway were far beyond their usual performing level of the previous years in London and finished only fourth in their group. The defence was quite good but in attack the five-time European champions caused an unexpected high number of mistakes. After the defeat against France they gave a victory from their hands against Korea (27-27) and won inconclusively against their neighbours Denmark and Sweden, before again being shocked by Spain after a weak performance.
Spain were first clashed by Korea in their opener, but then constantly improved despite the severe injury of their strong wing player Carmen Martin. The draw against France was the wake-up call for the upcoming wins against the Scandinavian trio Denmark, Sweden and, surprisingly, Norway. The Iberians ranked well-deserved third ahead of the defending champions.
EHF EURO 2010 semi-finalist Denmark could not fulfil the hopes after missing the 2008 Olympic Games. By beating only Sweden the three-time Olympic champions said “farvel” already after the preliminary round. The three defeats against Korea, Norway and Spain were close then they finally got clashed by France, after they had already been eliminated.
With zero points after five defeats the balance of EHF EURO 2012 silver medallist Sweden was even worse in this Scandinavian Waterloo. The severe injury of Therese Islas Helgesson in the opening match against Denmark and two close defeats broke the resistance early. The team and coach Per Johansson were absolutely disappointed after ranking eleventh in the end.
TEXT: Björn Pazen