Men’s handball preliminaries: Round one preview

M handball prelims: Round 1 preview

Croatia vs. Qatar (Group A)

Time: 8:30 a.m. EST

The men’s competition gets off to a sizzling start as two-time gold medalists Croatia aim to reclaim their place on the top. They will be led by center back Domagoj Duvnjak, who became the second Croatian to win the World Player of the Year, respectively, in 2013. On the other side, fans will get their first glimpse of the controversial Qatari team, which is making its Olympics debut.  Qatar is fielding a team mainly comprised of naturalized citizens that originally played from other countries. Left back Rafael Capote, who defected from Cuba to Brazil before becoming naturalized as a Qatari, will be the country’s key offensive weapon to challenge the 6’11” right back Marko Kobljar.

Sweden vs. Germany (Group B)

Time: 10:30 a.m. EST

The Swedes have struggled to get over the hump, finishing as runners-up in four Olympic competitions. Their push for a gold medal won’t be easy, though. Sweden faces a promising German side that recently finished runners-up at the 2016 European Championship, led by right winger Tobias Reichmann. The young German squad will look to get off to a flying start and cement their status as podium favorites.

Denmark vs. Argentina (Group A) 

Time: 1:40 p.m. EST

Surprisingly enough, Denmark has never finished above fourth in the Olympic Games. For a country that was once considered the best in Europe, it has underachieved. The Danes will place their burden on left back Mikkel Hansen, a two-time World Player of the Year. Challenging Denmark will be Argentina, a country that hopes to fair better than their 10th place finish four years ago. Though the Argentinians are a fun squad to watch, you would be hard pressed to see them upset Denmark.

Poland vs. Brazil (Group B)

Time: 3:40 p.m.  EST

The Brazilian men’s chances of advancing to the podium are far slimmer than the women’s. The inexperienced squad will challenge a Polish team that looks to be a safe bet for the knockout phase. Led by goalkeeper Slawomi Szmal, Poland has enough skill to see off the host country.

France vs. Tunisia (Group A)

Time: 6:50 p.m.  EST

France begins its quest for a third consecutive gold medal by taking on Tunisia. Les Blues are undeniably the most athletic team in the world. France features center back Nikola Karabitic, arguably the best player in the world, and goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, the best goalkeeper in the world. France has too much depth in its squad to be anything but an overwhelming favorite against the field, let alone Tunisia.

Slovenia vs. Egypt (Group B)

Time: 8:50 p.m. EST

Slovenia and Egypt close out today’s round of play. The dark horses of the tournament, Slovenia qualified by virtue of finishing above Spain and Sweden in its respective qualification group. If the Slovenians are to be a scoring threat in this competition, they will need to rely on center back Uros Zorman. They open against Egypt, a squad that should be fairly beatable. A loss on the very first hurtle could prove to be disastrous for the Slovenians, who will be eyeing to sneak into one of the top four places in their respective group.

Be sure to catch all of the action on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.

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