First losses for Denmark and Germany, while France reach the quarter-final
August 12, 2016
Day 3: Denmark and Germany suffered their first defeat in the Olympic tournament. France is ready for the quarter-final and Qatar made a superb comeback against Tunisia.
By Peter Bruun
MATCH OF THE DAY
Denmark vs Croatia 24:27 (12:15)
Denmark had to invest considerably fewer physical resources into their first two matches that resulted in clear victories against Argentina and Tunisia. Croatia, in contrast, suffered a seven-goal defeat to Qatar and booked a troublesome win against Argentina.
Denmark had the mental upper hand; having won the five most recent matches against Croatia – last at the Olympic qualifiers in Denmark back in April – 28:24.
Ahead of the game, Danish coach, Gudmundur Gudmundsson, welcomed back Kasper Søndergaard who had recovered from his leg injury, but his team was still handicapped by missing long-term injured playmaker Rasmus Lauge.
Croatia was without first-choice goalkeeper, Mirko Alilovic, who is still taking a “mental break” from the national team.
From the start, the spectators at Future Arena saw a completely different Croatian team compared to their first two games.
A very focused and determined Croatian crew got the upper hand from the beginning, thanks to an efficient seven- against-six play in several of their attacks.
On the other side, Denmark’s goalkeepers Niklas Landin and Jannick Green struggled in the first 30 minutes – inevitably, Croatia got the upper hand.
The Danes ought to be familiar with the Croatian 3-2-1 defense, but their pyramid variation of the formation caused Denmark´s attack serious problems throughout the first 30 minutes. Croatia was leading by four goals several times before taking a three-goal advantage at the half.
From the start of the second period, Gudmundsson began with Kasper Søndergaard for the first time in the tournament.
Indeed, Søndergaard added some pressure to the right side of Denmark’s attack, and when Jannick Green returned – he had replaced an unfortunate Niklas Landin – the Scandinavian’s came back at 16:16 and 17:17.
Still, a concentrated Croatian squad – Duvnjak & Co. made extremely few mistakes – soon picked up momentum again.
They also benefited from numerous Danish mistakes, including three errors by Mikkel Hansen that resulted in easy goals for Croatia.
While Croatia continued their march towards a decisive win, Denmark´s coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson neglected to bring Landin back in goal despite Green´s deteriorating saving percentage. Playmaker Morten Olsen and lineplayer Jesper Nøddesbo did not get a chance to contribute either.
Man of the Match
Domagoj Duvnjak – the 28-year-old playmaker from THW Kiel played his best international game of handball in a long time. He orchestrated Croatia´s play of attack brilliantly, no matter if they attacked with six or seven players.
Croatia is back in the race for medals. If they can maintain the performance level they showed against Denmark, the team must be considered a contender despite their poor start in the competition. The tactical skills and determination they demonstrated in this match can take them far.
Denmark missed a good opportunity for an early quarter-final berth and the squad hopes that their poor performance was just one “bad day at the office” – if not, they will not even come near a medal.
It was particularly surprising that Gudmundsson did not try more tactical adjustments to change the rhythm of the game. For example, Niklas Landin did not return in goal, when Jannick Green stopped performing.
Denmark´s best attacking lineplayer, Jesper Nøddesbo, did not see time on the pitch, and neither did sharp-shooting playmaker, Morten Olsen. And Michael Damgaard only played a few minutes in the first half.
There is room for improvement in the Danish camp – on the court and in particular on the bench.
Other Matches in Group A
Tunisia vs Qatar 25:25 (12:11)
Even though Tunisia threw away a victory in the end, the draw was a sensation by itself.
Qatar did not seem to have recovered from their 35:20 defeat against France two days earlier, and for 59 and a half minutes, they were teetering on the edge of a disaster.
With 12 goals, Rafael Capote was almost a one-man army in an uninspired playing Qatari crew. Tunisia, on the other side, stunned the Middle-Eastern team with their creative attacking plays, before they “froze” during the last three minutes of the game. Qatar scored four unanswered goals, changing a 21:25 deficit into a 25:25 draw.
France vs Argentina 31:24 (17:12)
France became the first team to qualify for the quarter-final, when they finished Match Day 3, by taking their third successive win. An energetic Argentinian team offered some good resistance, but France was in control all the way.
Poland vs Egypt 33:25 (16:10)
Finally, Poland got their game going after two defeats, while Egypt were not able to live up to their fine performances against Slovenia and Sweden.
Egypt were only able to follow their opponents until 3:3, and not even a suspected, serious, ankle injury of Michal Jurecki could shake the Poles who increased their lead continuously for the rest of the first half.
After the break, Poland had no problems defending their clear lead, which turned into an eight-goal victory in the end.
Brazil vs Germany 33:30 (17:16)
Ahead of the game, Gemany´s coach Dagur Sigurdsson replaced right-wing, Patrick Groetzki with Steffen Weinhold and were playing with three right-backs in their squad and only one right-wing.
But neither right-backs nor the rest of the German team could prevent the Brazilian host from taking a much surprising win against the European champions.
In a fast and entertaining match, where the lead changed several times, Brazil was simply the better and more stable crew in the end, causing Germany’s first loss.
Furthermore, Brazil proved that it is possible to practice an aggressive defense against seven attacking players.
Slovenia vs Sweden 29:24 (14:13)
If you can do without players like Dragan Gajic and Gasper Marguc, you have a very good team. Coach Veselin Vujovic does have a very good team.
On Thursday, the charismatic and controversial coach collected a third win in as many games, together with his Slovenian team.
Sweden got off to the better start, leading 4:1 and 5:2, but it did not take Slovenia long to catch up. After the break, Vujovic´s men dominated a Swedish team that still is without points and almost certain to fly home after the group phase. Whereas, Slovenia has practically reached the quarter-final.