Prediction Hits and Misses
– Hit: My prediction that Germany would be a disappointment came to fruition. They lacked firepower and barely made it out of the preliminary round. Coach Brand didn’t explicitly complain about the Bundesliga, but give him time: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5176503,00.html
– Hit/miss: I predicted a combination of angst and complacency would prevent France from winning the title. I was correct about the angst and complacency, but was dead wrong on the timing. France slept walk through its first three matches, (29-29 draw vs. Hungary , a narrow 21-20 victory over the Czech Republic, and a 24-24 draw vs. Spain), but then turned up the heat in the Main Round and the semifinals. Had they been able to win their first matches on reputation without a wakeup call they would have been ripe for an upset. Credit this to good fortune, parity, the ability turn the switch on when needed, or to a clever psychological strategy from the coaching staff. Or maybe all of the above.
– Miss: Russia was certainly not a surprise team. They continue to disappoint as they prove again to be a “reverse Iceland”. (i.e., Iceland proved that the team can add up to more than its individual parts. The Russians have been proving that the individual parts can add up to less than the whole). Perhaps it’s time for a new coach to reenergize their program.
Balic Theater: Christer Ahl didn’t name names when he referred to star players taking advantage of their status to secure two minute penalties, but as it’s Oscar season, I will nominate Ivano Balic for best actor. Actually, they could spice up the ESPYs by adding this category to the award show. They could show clips of soccer players taking a dive, handball players writhing in agony on the court and basketball players stumbling to the ground after a clean block before they announce the winner.
Parity: The Euro 2010 brought new meaning to the word parity as almost every game was competitive till the end of the match. Heck, eventual winners France drew with Hungary and they were eliminated in the preliminary round. Contrast that to a World Championship where only a few non-European teams are competitive and it’s easy to understand why there have been calls to modify the WC format.
How long will the dynasty last?: Winning 3 straight titles cannot be attributed to luck. Make no mistake, we are in the midst of a French Handball dynasty. The only question remains is how long will it last? With several key players in their 20’s and no player older than 34, France show no signs of slowing down. With the additional fact that no team is on the cusp of improving to their level, I’m thinking that a double-triple is a very real possibility. This would mean 3 more titles (WC 2011, EC 2012, Olympics 2012) to go with their current 3. After London, though, the French will likely see a few key retirements in the backcourt. Couple those retirements with the rest of the players aging and no readily identifiable replacements and the dynasty will be over. In the mean time though, the question before each tournament will continue to be, “Can anybody stop France?”