I was initially disappointed for not getting the NBCOlympics.com web play by play team handball commentary "gig" from the onset (August 7). I felt that it would have provided me with an opportunity to prepare myself for the elimination rounds, starting up next week.
What a difference 48 games will make.
I am high on handball! I'm overdosed! Just [b]watching[/b] all games has been taxing on me, as I HAVE to watch them LIVE. No alternative for me. Luckily, I have a job which allows me a "very" flexible schedule, to say the least. For the past eight days I have been on European time. Not quite Beijing but somewhere in between, some eight hours ahead… And it's been all eights in China so far.
Staying up late at night is nothing new for me. Operating on three to fours of sleep for the past week, is. During the day I am a walking zombie, high on handball.
With another eight days left on the Games, things keep getting better. Elimination round match-ups are set to sizzle and further entertain. Pre tournament favorites have, for the most part, confirmed. On the men stage, the current European Champion (Denmark) and last year's Weltmeister (Germany) join the Russians in a three team contest of attrition, where one team will go home early courtesy of Iceland's surprising preliminaries play. Similarly, on the ladies side, Germany could lose its playoff spot to Brasil or even "newcomer" Sweden.
What's behind some of these surprising performances by perennial outsiders and so many close games?
Officiating — with few exceptions, it has been impeccable. That alone leveled the field and allowed the less experienced teams to feel that they can compete. Hence the higher number of games decided by 2 goals or less.
Tactics — coaches have done a good job instilling a disciplined strategy, based on positional possession play, aimed at exploiting the opposition's weaknesses.
Crowd — for what is worth, Beijing has been the perfect neutral venue. Maybe too neutral at times but was such where there was no pressure on the officials.
In the end, teams with great individual talent, bench depth and confidence pulled away. After all, when the game is on the line, it all comes down to execution. Egypt failed twice. Iceland did not. Neither did the Brazilian ladies, whereas their men did.
For few teams there is one more chance. For the rest however, it's next time.