Sorry, Netherlands: IHF and Spain had a part in ruining your Olympic dreams

Dutch star Lois Abbingh and her teammates now planning their revenge in EURO 2012

I was explaining the scenario already last night: Spain could today afford to lose by two goals against Croatia and still win the group; they could lose by six and still qualify for London. As we know, from so many similar situations in handball, football and other sports, when there exists such a ‘convenient’ result that rescues BOTH team, then often that is the result we will get. So, the final result was 23-22 in favor of Croatia. Please note that I am NOT accusing anyone of any intentional wrongdoing. But the IHF game schedule did not provide for a logical and fair situation.


Netherlands beat Croatia on the first day, and Spain beat Netherlands on the second day. In both these games, both teams desperately needed to do their best. But in the final part of the triangle, today’s Spain-Croatia, the Croatians had the huge advantage of playing against a team that did NOT need to win. If one knows that two teams out of four qualify, and if one assumes that the ranking is often correct, then it would be logical to assume that typically the 2 vs. 3 game will decide, and then it would seem logical, natural to play that game on the LAST day, so that the teams get the same conditions. But IHF keeps sticking to the ‘autopilot’ approach of playing 3–4 and 1-2 on the last day….

The Croatians will undoubtedly prefer the easier explanation: in the ‘triangle’ they had the second-best goal difference, so that is why they now have their tickets for London. But for a neutral observer it leaves a bad taste. (And one should also note that the IHF format makes the other two groups totally anticlimactic today, as the teams ranked 1 and 2 are already qualified). The Dutch, with their young, exciting team will now need to focus on getting their revenge in December when they play EURO 2012 in front of their home crowd. And many of their talents will have an even earlier opportunity in July, during the U-20 World Championship. They were runners-up in the EHF U-19 last year, so they are clearly among the favorites. Good luck!

All the participants in London are now known, and the draw for the groups, for both women and men, will take place on Wednesday May 30th. The seeding rows for the women’s competition are now as follows: 1. Norway and today’s group winner France/Montenegro; 2. Spain and the group winner Denmark/Russia; 3. Croatia and loser Denmark/Russia ; 4. the loser France/Montenegro and Great Britain; 5. Sweden and Brazil; 6. Korea and Angola. Each one of the bottom four teams undoubtedly hopes that Great Britain will choose the group that THEY are placed in, as this might make the path to the quarter-finals slightly easier.

Full summary of Olympic Qualification competition: (Note:  Always available in our links section on the right.)