Well, it’s that dreaded weekend between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. Two weeks of hype is bad enough, but foisting this farce of a game (the Pro Bowl) on the viewing public adds insult to injury. I suppose you could watch 20 different NCAA Hoops matchups or the Australian Open. But, if you’re looking for something a little different this is a great weekend to try Team Handball courtesy of the European Handball Federation (EHF) and YouTube.
The European Championships are wrapping up this weekend in Belgrade, Serbia with matches on Friday and Sunday. It’s been a fabulous tournament with many twists and turns, and the final four is set to begin. Friday’s matches take place in the evening in Europe, so unless you’re not working or have a lenient boss it will be tough to take in the matches live in many other parts of the world.
Never fear, though, as the EHF has been posting the complete matches for fans to watch at their convenience. As soon as they are available we’ll post a link to the video. This should help to avoid finding out the score, but you’ll still need to be careful for extraneous information like chatter in the comment box.
Friday’s Matches (All Times are U.S. East Coast)
Live Feed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6qQZKTxdL8
9:15 AM Slovenia vs. Macedonia (5th Place Match)
This match is for 5th place and a guaranteed spot in an Olympic Qualification Tournament. These two teams were not expected to place in the top tier of this tournament, but both sides have ridden their “home crowd” advantage as fans from the nearby nations have crossed the border in large numbers to cheer their teams on. Why, there are so many scarlet and gold fans in the arena one could even think they were in Hilton Coliseum. Accordingly, Macedonia is a 1 goal favorite.
11:45 AM Denmark vs. Spain (Semifinal #1)
Spain waltzed through their group with their only blemish a draw against Hungary. Denmark, however, lost two of its first 3 matches and looked to be all but eliminated heading into the main round. They took care of business, though, winning their last 3 matches. Those wins and a timely assist from Poland beating Germany let them slip in the backdoor. Spain is a half goal favorite.
BE FOREWARNED: Requests to the EHF to remove video pictures (Smiling players and previews for Sunday) that may give away the score have been ignored. To avoid finding out the outcome have a sheet of paper ready and click full screen immediately.
2:15 PM Croatia vs. Serbia (Semifinal #2)
Since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia has had far greater handball success than its neighbor Serbia. Croatia may have a better pedigree, but this match will be in Belgrade and you can be certain that the home crowd will be loud and vocal. It goes without saying that there’s still some strain in the relationship between these nations which fought each other not that long ago both on and off the court. For a sense of that strain, check out the Once Brothers documentary that’s periodically replayed on ESPN. This game is expected to be another tight affair with Croatia favored by a half goal.
Sunday’s Matches (All Times are U.S. East Coast)
8:30 AM Bronze Medal Match
Bronze medal matches are often meaningless, but these two teams will have something to play for as the winner automatically qualifies for the 2013 World Championship while the loser will have to slug it out in Group Play over the course of next season. A few weekends off are definitely worth fighting for. (Editor’s note: Correction; As Spain is hosting the 2013 WC, the other 3 semifinalists have already qualified. In other words the match is indeed now a meaningless third place match.)
11:00 AM Gold Medal Match
Not a whole lot needed to be said here. The winner takes the European title and directly qualifies for the 2012 Olympics.