2012 Olympic Qualification Update

We’ve updated the 2012 Olympic Qualification page to reflect the recent results of the Men’s 2011 World Championships.

By winning the title France has joined host, Great Britain, in qualifying for the Olympics in London next year.  Ten spots in the twelve nation tournament remain to be awarded.  Four spots will be awarded to the Continental Federations (Europe, Pan America, Asia and Africa) and 6 spots will be awarded via 3 IHF Qualification Tournaments.

The IHF has decided to use the same format that was used for 2008 Olympic Qualification.  Three round robin tournaments (with 4 nations participating) will be plaayed from 6-8 April, 2012.  The top 2 teams from each tournament will qualify for the Olympics.  Teams will be seeded in these tournaments based on the recently completed World Championship results and the results of upcoming Continental Qualification events.

The nations that placed 2nd through 7th (Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Croatia, Iceland and Hungary) have qualified for IHF Qualification Tournaments.  The World Championships also decided the rank order of the different Continental Federations.  Europe by virtue of France winning the title is ranked as the top Continent.  Pan America is second (Argentina, 12th Place), Asia is 3rd (South Korea, 13th Place) and Africa is 4th (Egypt, 14th Place).  The most significant ramification of the Continental ranking is that Pan America, by virtue of Argentina being the sole non-European team making the main round, picked up an extra qualification tourney spot.

The current seeding for these tournaments is as follows

Tournament 1:  Denmark (Host), Hungary, Europe (2nd), Africa (2nd)
Tournament 2:  Spain (Host), Iceland, Pan America (2nd), Europe (3rd)
Tournament 3:  Sweden (Host), Croatia, Asia (2nd), Pan America (3rd)

It’s fairly likely, however, that this seeding will be altered by the 2012 European Championships as Denmark, Spain or one of the other European teams that finished 2nd-7th at the World Championships will be strong candidates to earn the European Automatic Qualification bid.  This will then set off a cascading effect in terms of which teams will play where.  For instance, should Denmark earn the European bid the placement of teams would change as follows:

Tournament 1:  Spain (Host), Poland, Europe (2nd), Africa (2nd)
Tournament 2:  Sweden (Host), Hungary, Pan America (2nd), Europe (3rd)
Tournament 3:  Croatia (Host), Iceland, Asia (2nd), Pan America (3rd)

Commentary:  As I pointed out 4 years ago, I think most observers would probably consider this format flawed in that it’s fairly certain that the Continental Championship Qualifiers in Tournament 3 will be weaker opponents  than the qualifiers in Tournaments 1 and 2.  Tournament 1 will likely have Germany, Norway, or Serbia as Europe 2 and then either Tunisia or Egypt as Africa 2.  The teams in tournament 2 are likely to be Brazil/Argentina and Germany/Norway/Serbia again.  Contrast that to Tournament 3 where the likely opponents include Japan and Chile/Cuba.   You can pretty much ink in Croatia and Iceland as qualifying out of that tournament.  So, it’s pretty clear that a 3rd or 4th seed is better than a 1st or 2nd seed.  Granted, Spain and Sweden will still likely qualify, but why should they get punished for doing better at the World Championship?

There’s a number of ways that the IHF could have fixed this.  The simplest would probably be a draw for tournament seeding using 4 ranks of 3 teams each.  That would at least even out the likelihood of getting a 3rd European team in each tournament.  Another option would be to rank order the 6 teams that qualify via Continental Championships based on how well they performed at the last WC.  Regardless, it’s clear that the current system is flawed.  It’s probably too late to fix it now, but I guess maybe there’s a chance the IHF could get it right for 2016.