Olympic Ramifications:  The Importance of Final Team Ranking and the Battle for 2nd Best Continent

Brazil celebrating after advancing to the Main Round. If they continue to do well it could mean an extra Olympic Qualification slot for Pan America.

There’s no arguing that handball isn’t a European dominated sport.  This is particularly true on the Men’s side where no non-European team has ever won the World Championship and only three nations, Egypt (2001), Tunisia (2005) and Qatar (2015) have even made the semifinals.

This year’s championship has seen 3 outsiders (Brazil, Tunisia and Egypt) join 9 European nations in advancing to the Main Round.  In doing so, I don’t think many observers would assess that they don’t belong.  Brazil beat Serbia and Russia in preliminary play.  Tunisia took out Austria while Egypt drew with Hungary, actually taking a point with them into the Main Round.

Still, while they belong it’s hard to see any of these teams making the semifinals.  Heck picking up any points in Main Round play could be a challenge.  But, while heading to Hamburg for the semifinals may be a longshot they still have a shot at securing an Olympic Qualification Tournament slot and securing an extra slot for their continental federation

Team Ranking and Olympic Qualification

The Olympic Qualification Process is a bit convoluted and involves a bit of dominoes.  Wikipedia has a good page summarizing it in detail:  Link

Here’s the cliff notes version focused on the ongoing World Championships.  The champion will automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympics.  Places 2nd-7th will qualify for an Olympic Qualification Tournament.  However, there’s a pretty high probability that the 2020 European Champion will belong to one of those nations that place 2nd-7th.  And, this means that those places will shift down 1 spot ultimately resulting in the 8th place team getting an Olympic Qualification Tourney bid.

But, wait there’s more.  It’s also possible that the same thing could happen with Pan America and Africa, should Brazil, Egypt or Tunisia finish 8th or better and then go on to win the PANAM Games or the African Championship.  And, theoretically, it could happen with both continents, meaning that even 10th place could secure an Olympic Qualification Tourney bid.  The complication which is somewhat confusing is that it’s not certain these nations will win their continental titles and we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

Continent Ranking and Olympic Qualification                 

But, wait there’s still more.  The Olympic Qualification Tourneys also have slots awarded to the continental federations.  Each continent is granted 1 slot and the best and 2nd best continental federation at the preceding World Championships are granted an extra slot each.  Assuming a European team wins the title this means Pan America and Africa will battle for 2nd best.  And, this will be determined simply by which nation (Brazil, Egypt or Tunisia) finishes highest.

This ranking will be straight forward if any of those 3 nations places 4th or higher in their Main Round Group as that nation will then play in a placement match.  We could even theoretically with have a head to head continental matchup like Brazil vs Egypt for 7th place.  If, however, those teams finish 5th or 6th, their ranking for 9th-12th place will be as follows:

The teams that are in 5th place will be ranked 9th/10th and the teams that are in 6th place will be ranked 11th/12th.  Order for 9th/10th will be decided by 1) points in the Main Round and then by 2) Goal differential in the preliminary round.  Currently, these rules have Egypt in first place, Brazil 2nd and Tunisia 3rd.

  • Egypt: 1) 1 pt in the Main Round; 2) -1 GD in preliminary play
  • Brazil: 1) 0 pts in the Main Round; 2) -15 GD in preliminary play
  • Tunisia 1) 0 pts in the Main Round; 2) -24 GD in preliminary play

So, what does all of this mean?  Well, it means everyone in Pan America has a rooting interest in seeing Brazil do well and for Egypt and Tunisia to lose.  If Brazil can finish higher than the African nations it will result in 2 Olympic Qualification Tournament slots for Pan America meaning that both the 2nd and 3rd place nations at the PANAM Games will qualify for an Olympic Qualification Tournament slot.