World Championship Preview: 10 Questions

The tournament has already kicked off with the opening match between Croatia and South Korea, so, I’m a little bit late on this preview. Here are the answers to 10 burning questions:

1) Will Australia win a match? Not likely. Without Olympic backcourt veteran Darryl MacCormack Australia will really struggle this tournament. Their best chances will likely be against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

2) Will any Cubans miss their flight back to Havana? Very likely. The possibility of defection is very high based on other recent International tournaments and quite frankly, I’m amazed that they are even making this trip.

3) How will the officials fare in the charged atmosphere? With mixed results. Certain matches in 2007 were a disaster in the minds of a lot of observers. Expect more complaints again, but there’s bound to be an improvement.

4) Will the Croatian crowd boo/whistle IHF President Moustafa? To be determined. I’m not sure how well the press is covering the IHF scandals of recent weeks. And perhaps the IHF President will wisely keep a low profile.

5) Will any non-European teams advance to the Main Round? Yes. Egypt will squeak through in Group D. Everybody else will be relegated to the little kid’s table (i.e., the President’s Cup)

6) How will the other former Yugoslavian teams fare? Macedonia and Serbia will both fail to make the Main Round. It will also be interesting to see what the atmosphere in the arenas will be like when Serbia plays.

7) Is Germany’s success in 2007 now a distant memory? Yes, and based on Spain’s recent shellacking in a friendly it could be a long tournament for the Germans. It’s also highly unlikely that they will benefit from friendly officiating in Croatia this time around.

8 ) How will Spain fare under their new coach? Spain’s performance in some Euro 2010 qualification matches left a lot to be desired as they had an unimpressive win vs. lowly Cyprus and suffered a loss to Ukraine. Their recent performance in friendly matches seems to indicate that they’ve righted the ship. I still doubt they have the firepower to knock off France or Croatia to make the Semifinals out of Group 1. (Miguel Garcia has a different view and you can read his predictions in the extended post.)

9) How much will France miss Bertrand Gille at Circle Runner? Not so much on offense, where Cedric Sorhaindo will emerge as a force along the 6 meter line. On defense, however, he will be definitely missed. I think France has enough weapons to make up for his departure though.

10) Will Croatia thrive at home or succumb to the added pressure? Yes, to both. Croatia will ride the wave of enthusiasm their fans will provide all the way to the final. Along the way there, they will only lose to France in the Main Round of competition. In the Semis they will then knock off Denmark before they fall to France again before a full house in Zagreb.

(Editor’s Note: As you might have guessed this was written before Croatia’s squeaker victory over South Korea.)

My entire predictions (as well as Bogdan Pasat’s and Miguel Garcia’s)are in the extended post.

[b]John Ryan's Predictions[/b]

Group A
1) France
2) Hungary
3) Romania
4) Slovakia
5) Argentina
6) Australia

Group B
1) Spain
2) Croatia
3) Sweden
4) South Korea
5) Cuba
6) Kuwait

Group C
1) Russia
2) Poland
3) Germany
4) Tunisia
5) Macedonia
6) Algeria

Group D
1) Denmark
2) Norway
3) Egypt
4) Serbia
5) Brazil
6) Saudi Arabia

Main Group 1
1) France
2) Croatia
3) Spain
4) Hungary
5) Sweden
6) Romania

Main Group 2
1) Denmark
2) Russia
3) Poland
4) Norway
5) Egypt
6) Germany

3rd Place Denmark over Russia
1st Place France over Croatia

[b]Miguel Garcia's Predictions[/b]

Group A
1. France
2. Hungary
3. Slovakia
4. Romania
5. Argentina
6. Australia

Group B
1. Croatia
2. Spain
3. Sweden
4. South Korea
5. Cuba
6. Kuwait

Group C
1. Poland
2. Russia
3. Germany
4. Tunisia
5. Macedonia
6. Algeria

Group D
1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Egypt
4. Serbia
5. Brazil
6. Saudi Arabia

Group I
1. Croatia
2. Spain
3. France
4. Sweden
5. Hungary
6. Slovakia

Group II
1. Denmark
2. Poland
3. Russia
4. Germany
5. Norway
6. Egypt

CROATIA – Poland
Denmark – SPAIN

Silver: SPAIN

Croatia has been preparing this World Championship for the last couple of years, they managed to brought superstar Ivano Balic home to meet most of his teammates in RK Zagreb and head coach Lino Cervar, and I believe the atmosphere in Zagreb will be terrific for their opponents and for the referees. You will surprise that I picked Spain as a runner up, but they have the best coach in handball history, Valero Rivera, in the bench now, and a very talented and hungry generation and they are very optimistic after the 28-17 victory over Germany last weekend. I could have picked Denmark as runner up as well, since that hypotetical Denmark-Spain semifinal would be totally tight, impossible to decide who would win. Denmark still keeps the same team for the last 5 years, they have the strongest defense and one of the most perfect fastbreak game. And for the 4th place I have picked Poland, pretty much because they have a quite accessible bracket, since the Germany they will face is not the Great World Champion Germany from 2 years ago, Russia has been going downhill nonstop in the last championships and they are a mystery without Maximov. From the other side of the bracket, I think France will be missing Bertrand Gille loss too much in their matches against Spain and Croatia, and Sweden is not still ready to come back to the medals fight, especially in this side of the bracket.

[b]Bogdan Pasat's Picks[/b]

Group A:

Group B:

Group C:

Group D:

Group I:

Group II:

3rd Place: GER
2nd Place: CRO
1st Place: FRA

Denmark is my “sleeper team”