The Groups have been drawn for the Men’s and Women’s Team Handball Competition at the PANAM Games. Both the Men’s and Women’s tournament formats start with round robin play in two groups of 4 teams. The top two teams from each group advances to the semifinals while the bottom two teams play for 5th to 8th place.
The Gold Medal winners for the Men’s and Women’s tournament earn an automatic ticket to the 2012 Olympics in London. The 2nd place and 3rd place men’s team earn berths in Olympic qualification tournaments Spring 2012. The 2nd place and possibly the 3rd place women’s (TBD based on 2011 WC results) will win tournament berths as well.
Group A: Brazil, Chile, Canada, Venezuela
Group B: Argentina, Dominican Republic, Mexico, USA
Analysis: Brazil and Argentina are clear favorites to win their groups and to eventually play each other in the Gold Medal Game. The rest of the participants with the possible exception of Venezuela have realistic aspirations of making the semifinals. Chile, which took 3rd place at the 2010 PATHF Championship last year and played respectably at the 2011 WC (their draw against Slovakia was a major surprise) is probably the next strongest team. They will be challenged in Group A by Canada for the second slot. At last summer’s PATHF Elite Championship, Chile easily defeated Canada 36-25 during Group play
In Group B, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the USA will battle it out for second place. Based solely on recent PATHF competition results the Dominican Republic appears to be a slight favorite having finished 1st at the PATHF Div I Championship in 2009, 8th at the PATHF Elite Championship in 2010, and 1st at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in 2010. Meanwhile, Mexico placed 4th at the Div 1 Championship in 2009 and 3rd at the Central American and Caribbean Championships. The USA only returned to International competition last December, where they lost to Canada on aggregate goals scored in a home and home 2 game series. This past spring at the 2nd Chance PANAM Games Qualification tournament the USA drew Uruguay and easily defeated Venezuela.
In terms of head to head competition, the Dominican Republic beat Mexico 35-32 as the 2009 Div championship and the USA has played neither team in several years. One can extrapolate, on paper anyway, that the USA’s results against Canada and Uruguay (two teams that have played the Dominican Republic close in recent years) means that the USA and the Dominican Republic are roughly on the same level.
Group A: Brazil, Dominican Republic, USA, Uruguay
Group B: Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile
Analysis: As with the men, Brazil and Argentina are clear favorites. In Group A, the match between the Dominican Republic and Uruguay will likely decide who advances with Brazil into the semifinals. And these two evenly matched teams know each other well having played to a draw during group play at both the 2009 and 2011 PATHF Championships (just this past June). The USA has only returned to international competition recently and struggled to beat an inexperienced Canadian side to secure the North American slot. The USA Women are improving, but they are significant underdog to makes the semifinals.
In Group B, Chile (3rd place at the 2009 PATHF Championship) should be favored over Mexico and Puerto Rico. This past June, at the 2011 PATHF Championship Chile defeated Mexico, 26-22 in Group Play while Puerto Rico and Mexico may be evenly matched. At last summer’s Central American and Caribbean Games, Mexico beat Puerto Rico in round robin play, but then Puerto Rico beat Mexico in the Semifinals 24-21.