Great Britain defeated Greece 25-23 yesterday to win their first match ever in an official qualifying event for either a European or World Championship. Greece is a second tier country on the global handball stage, but has a legitimate handball heritage and is only 4 years removed from their participation in the 2004 Olympics.
Arguably more surprising than this victory, however, is Great Britain’s respectable matches against the Netherlands, Lithuania and Turkey. The Netherlands, the eventual group winner, is a legitimate first tier nation and while the British lost handedly in the end 37-21, they kept the score to a respectable 6 goals at halftime. Britain followed up that performance with a 23-27 loss to Lithuania and a 22-14 loss to Turkey. Both of those matches, however, saw strong British performances through the first half, with Britain leading Lithuania 12-11 at the half and holding Turkey scoreless for the opening 10 minutes. Turkey is an experienced side on the cusp of breaking into the top tier, having lost to Denmark by one goal earlier this year and having tied France in France as part of European Championship qualification two years ago. http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.93
But, the news was not all rosy for the Brits, as they were easily beaten by the Czech Republic 34-17 and while morale victories show progress they are also still losses. More troubling still is the potential looming budget axe that could be wielded tomorrow. Faced with cash shortfalls in funding for all of the Olympic sports, UK Sport will soon let British Handball know what level of funding (if any) they will continue to receive.
British Handball Website with articles and pictures from the tournament: http://britishhandball.worldhandball.com/
BBC Sports: GB pleased with handball showing: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympic_games/7757546.stm
European Qualification for World Championship Final Results: http://www.eurohandball.com/wch/women/2009/round/3/Qualification+Europe
London Telegraph: Team GB face cash cuts for London Olympics: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/olympics/london2012/3535719/Team-GB-face-cash-cuts-for-London-Olympics-London-2012.html
Times of London: Britain's grand Olympic plan up in smoke: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/olympics/article5263723.ece