Women’s handball preliminaries: Round four preview

W handball prelims: Round 4 preview

Group A: Angola (2-1) vs. Brazil (2-1)

Both of  these teams looked incredibly flawed in their respective third round matches.

Spain put on a demonstratration on how to beat Brazil – by individually marking Ana Paula Belo. Without her, Brazil’s pace suffers.

Angola looked compeltely disoriented when they were demolished by Norway, a team that likes to play fast and generate turnovers. Brazil play with a very familiar style, and Angola’s hot start to this tournament can quickly evaporate. They’re going to need to put on a much more physically defensive effort to have a chance to give Brazil a scare.

Group B: Sweden (2-1) vs. Netherlands (1-1-1)

Sweden looked so good against Russia until the final five minutes of play, where that resilient defense finally broke. Nathalie Hagmann and Isabelle Gullden have continued their impressive play, leading the team in scorign thus far. They next play against a Dutch squad, whose confidence might be a little shaken after missing out on a chance to go 2-1 in group play after the devastating draw against South Korea.

When it comes to offensive capability and consistency, the Swedes are the superior team. But they don’t have Tess Wester, who’s been one of the best goalies in the competition so far. Will her fine play continue and minimize the threats of Gullden and Hagmann? Or will the latter two continue to break through gaps?

Group A: Romania (1-2) vs. Spain (2-1)

These two teams looked like they turned the corner on Monday. Cristina Neagu put on, arguably, the best individual performance in the competition when she pushed Romania to victory over Montenegro. Meanwhile, Spain completely minimized the presence of Belo. Expect Neagu to be similarly marked, much like her Brazilian counterpart, in this round. If the Spanish strategy succeeds, then Romania will most likely fall by the wayside. If not – Neagu might somehow find another way to keep her Romanian side above water.

Group A: Montenegro (0-3) vs. Norway (2-1)

This Norwegian team continues to assert that its loss to Brazil in the opening round was nothing more than a fluke. After demolishing both Romania and Angola, Norway are coasting to another appearance in the quarterfinals. Nora Mork has been the best player in the tournament so far, scoring 25 goals on 31 attempts (80%). As if that’s not intimidating enough, there are still plenty of players who can make up for Mork should she have a bad day (Veronica Kristiansen, Stine Brendal Oftedal and Hedi Loke, to name a few).  This is a far contrast to Montenegro, who mostly rely on Katarina Bulatovic.

Montenegro have been quite similar to Romania; it’s mostly been Bulatovic carrying her teammates, who have all underpferformed so far. Though she’ll most likely lead in scoring for her team again, it’s going to be another mark in the loss column for this disappointing Montenegro team.

Group B: Russia (3-0) vs. Argentina (0-3)

They entered competition as the dark horses of the tournament; a young core of players with immense talent who can be down for almost the entire game, and still somehow find it in themselves to come out on top. That’s been the story of Russia, who’ve been in some of the most enthralling matches of the tournament. They defeated three very skilled teams so far: South Korea, France and Sweden. All three games were shootouts. They now play against much weaker competition in Argentina, who are coming off a 16 point loss to France. Argentina will most likely suffer a similar result against Russia, if not worse.

Group B: South Korea (0-1-2) vs. France (2-1)

It’s been one of those “too little too late” storylines for South Korea, who looked disorganized in their first two matches but came alive in the third (only to get a draw). They only have the slimmest of hopes of advancing now. Nothing less than a win against France will do.

The good news for South Korea: Gwon Han Na was phenomenal against the Netherlands, scoring 11 goals. She proved why she’s South Korea’s go-to player in organizing the transition from defense to offense. Oh Yongran also made what could be an Olympic-saving penalty shot, denying Netherlands the victory and giving South Korea newfound hope. But they have to get right back to business against France. France do a very good job in absorbing pace and slowing down the game to give their players the chance to establish themselves on the offensive and defensive line.

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