London Olympics Handball Day 12

By Bogdan Pasat | Aug. 09, 2012, 5:45 a.m. (ET)
If the London men handball quarterfinals would be made into a TV series – it would have to be called Nip & Tuck. Four quarterfinal matches on Wednesday, all decided by a combined 7 goals.

If you like your handball full of drama and surprises – you should have called in sick yesterday. Otherwise, y
ou may have missed an all European affair (well... almost, if you can get passed Tunisia’s geographical location…) that started off with a bang!

Hungary, behind all star performances from goalie Nandor Fazekas and right back Laszlo Nagy, knocked out Iceland in double extra time, 34:33. This was a back and forth affair that lasted 80 minutes. Iceland had a chance to win the game in regulation good fortune and luck was on Hungary’s side.
Nagy was the hero on offense. At over 2 meters tall, Nagy dominated the backcourt play with 9 goals, all timely. It would be unfair to analyze such a loss and lay blame – but, in hindsight, it is conceivable that Iceland may have overlooked Hungary in their quest for another Olympic medal. The 5:0 record in group play and recent win against France, may have given Iceland a false sense of security, against a team in Hungary who’s never finished higher than 4th place. As such, to the untrained eye, Hungary’s win could be a labeled a shocker. Not to this eye, though.

Spain vs. France took drama to another level. The protagonists were not “The usual suspects”. France’s left back William Accambray scored 7 times in the second half. An impressive feat on its own, but it was his last second put back that earned him the hero status. Karabatic and Narcisse were a non factor in this one, so France’s win is all the more significant. The defeat left Spain in disbelief and robbed their goalkeeper Sterbik Capar of an MVP.
A tale of two halves, with Spain dominating the first and France the second. The game was very physical on both sides. Yet, the Serbian officials, allowed France to get away with way too many dirty plays, especially in the second half. Quite a few blatant hits to the face by the French defenders were ignored by the officials. On offence, replays showed that Abalo scored a number of goals AFTER his foot landed on the 6M area.
It is worth noting that officiating during these games has been solid. There have been bad calls but none has directly influenced or affected the outcome of a game.
There is no doubt that the win belongs to France. By the same token, it is unfortunate that they’ve benefited from some favorable calls in such a close game.

While there can no longer be surprises in handball when entering the knock out stages, Sweden’s 24:22 win over Denmark is as close as it gets. The reigning 2012 European Champs could never really get in a groove, as Sweden successfully fended off Denmark’s attempts to leveling the game.
After trailing 6:5 after 15 minutes, Sweden took control of the game and led by one or two goals the entire time. The Danes chose to put all their eggs in Mikkel Hansen’s basket. “The Hammer” responded with only 4 goals from 11 shots, thanks to an inspired performance from Sweden’s goalkeeper Johan Sjostrand.
Much like Iceland earlier, it is conceivable that Denmark may have looked past Sweden. Hard not to, considering Denmark’s 31:24 categorical win over Sweden in January of this year at the European Championships.
Sweden will face Hungary in an unlikely semifinal.

With France already in the semis, Croatia looked to make quick work of Tunisia, the last game of the day.
But the physical contest, marred with dirty plays and a red card, favored Tunisia for much of the game. Croatia’s hard fought 25:23 win may have had a different ending, had it not been for a red card shown in the 25th minute to Tunisian defender and team captain Heykel Meannem. It was clear that the African champions lacked the individual talent and overall technical skills to defeat Croatia. So, they astutely turned the game into a war of physical attrition Surprisingly, Croatia took the bait and played “down”. They matched Tunisia’s physical play, instead of sitting back and striking with poise and technique.
Still, Tunisia’s tenacity on defense was impressive, if not downright nasty. It was mutual, as a combined eight players received two-minute suspensions for rough play. Croatia took control of the game after about 40 minutes led by Cupic’s 8 goals.

With the win, Croatia will face France in the other semifinal, a game that most believe it to be the real final of the Olympics. Just don't tell the Swedes or the Hungarians about it.

Men Semifinals