2020 Women’s European Handball Championship Preview: Semifinals (18 Dec 2020)

Will the incredible Croatian fairy tale continue? Photo courtesy of Stregspiller. Check out their Website and Instagram Account.

Friday, 18 December (Herning, Denmark)
All Times Local (CET) / US ET is -6 hrs)
Odds courtesy of BetMGM

5th Place Match 15:30 Russia (-1.5) vs Netherlands  (Live on ehfTV)
(Commentary: Paul Bray)

The big question regarding this match? Why is it even being played? The EHF is awarding 4 direct tickets to the 2021 World Championships and the 5th place match in many instances would serve to identify the 4th ticket. This is because one of the semifinalists might already have a World Championships slot. However, since Spain and the defending World Champions, Netherlands, both failed to make the semifinal all four semifinalists have taken all the direct tickets. Therefore this match is essentially a pointless friendly. And, really pointless in the middle of a pandemic.

Semifinal #1 18:00 France (-4.5) vs Croatia (Live on ehfTV and beIN Sports Xtra: How to watch) (Commentary: Paul Bray)
EHF Euro website preview: Link

Heading into the tournament Croatia were 100-1 odds to win it all. 40-1 odds to finish in the top 3. They’ve been underdogs in all 6 matches they’ve played and they are outright winners in 5 of those matches, losing like every other team, to Norway. And, get this:

The Croatian women have never played in a semifinal at a major international tournament before.

Never? Yes, kind of surprising when one things of all the success the Men’s team has had over the years. Can they buck all the odds and naysayers yet one more time?

I just don’t think so. On paper, France is clearly the better and more experienced team. Strong defense accompanied by fast breaks should make things rather tough for Croatia. Yes, unfortunately, I think this great story will likely come to an end.

Semifinal #2 20:30 Norway (-4.5) vs Denmark (Live on ehfTV and beIN Sports Xtra: How to watch (Commentary: Paul Bray)
EHF Euro website preview: Link

Norway has steam rolled over the competition so far barely breaking a sweat. They’ve won the 6 matches they’ve played by an average of 11.5 goals. The Netherlands came closest losing to Norway by just 7 goals. Are they that good? Or… have they largely benefitted from a grouping of weaker competition with a depleted Netherlands side actually being the best team they’ve faced so far?

Meanwhile Denmark has had to fight it out with France and Russia. Could they be the battle tested side ready to take down mighty Norway? Denmark did play Norway close in a couple of friendly matches before the tournament. Losing both contests by scores of 29-26 and 27-25.

Normally, this match would be in front of a packed house with a Danish crowd cheering on the hosts. Perhaps willing the home team on towards an upset. In the time of Coronavirus, however, it will be a rather quiet surreal affair. And, because of this I suspect the clinical Norwegian side will gradually wear down the Danes for a comfortable victory.