Yes, Brazil vs. Denmark again, but Poland is the big surprise!

Happy Polish players celebrate their place in the semifinals against Serbia

Happy Polish players celebrate their place in the semifinals against Serbia

Well, at least some of my predictions for the semifinals worked out: Denmark will indeed get the chance to have revenge on Brazil for the loss in the preliminary round, but the Norway-France pairing will not materialize. Both teams made their way to the quarterfinals, but there it came to an end.

France had looked relatively steady and comfortable in the preliminary round, and they easily got past Japan. But against Poland they suddenly appeared lacking in confidence and fighting spirit. Some of the veterans were not in old form and some of the newcomers looked overwhelmed. By contrast, Poland came to the game with a lot of enthusiasm after having defeated Romania. They just played their style and never let up. It was refreshing to see their attitude, and the 22-21 victory was deserved. And the Swedish team sitting at home watching may now feel some sense of consolation, after they were so criticized by being kicked out by Poland in the qualifying.

Poland will now have to deal with the home team Serbia. Just as in EURO2012, where Serbia was also the hosts, it seemed again that playing in front of a boisterous home crowd made a real difference. This had already been noticed in the previous round, where Serbian hooligans used green lasers in the face of the Korean 7-meter shooters. Norway got off to a great start with good goalkeeping and a fast-paced game, and it seemed that they were on a winning path. But suddenly the lost their rhythms, resorting to crazy shooting and beginning to leak on defense. In particular, they were not able to cope with the ‘heavy-weight’ circle-runner Cvijic. So much to the delight of the spectators, Serbia turned a 15-20 deficit into a 25-22 edge and never looked back. Norwegian spectators and media were dumbfounded and coach Hergeirsson was criticized for having been too passive. The unofficial Serbian anthem ‘The march to Drina’ could be heard with increasing fervor.

Denmark started out in a way similar to Norway, using fast-breaks and speed to get ahead. But gradually the German team fought back. It was then a tough game with an uncertain outcome for most of the game, until Denmark again was able to get a grip towards the end. The end result was 31-28. It had seemed already in the ’round of 16′ against Montenegro that Denmark was back in shape after a hapless preliminary round. So even if they were occasionally struggling today, they are probably going to be a tough nut to crack for Brazil in the semifinal; and then there is that element of revenge!

It is hard to know how Brazil will react after their victory today. They had occasionally been unconvincing in the previous game against Netherlands, and now they had an even more experienced opponent in form of Hungary. Of course, I had really dismissed the weak effort of Hungary in the preliminary round, but against Spain they then showed improvement and today they were again good enough to win, And it was close, with Brazil seemingly getting undisciplined before the result after 60 minutes was set at 26-26. The lack of discipline and some bad luck with referee decisions continued, so I was prepared to give up on our PanAmerican friends. But in the end their determination was greater and they pulled away to 33-31 in the second half of the second overtime. Alexandra played a dominant role, but both goalkeepers also contributed to the win. So now Brazil is through to the semi-final for the first time ever. Will they still be ‘hungry’ and ready to go for more after that achievement? Other PanAmerican teams are certainly hoping so, because a Brazilian gold medal would mean that no less than FIVE PanAmerican teams will be able to participate in the 2015 World Championship.