Rivals Croatia and Serbia on opposite trajectories?

Serbia vs Croatia at the 2011 WC

After the independence, Croatia and (to a lesser extent) Slovenia immediately became important participants in the Men’s World Championships.  Later on, FYR Macedonia has twice participated in a respectable way, and it is beginning to look as if Montenegro might soon be able to join in.  Bosnia can now point to a nice success at the club level, by having a team qualify for the last 16 in the EHF Champions League.  Meanwhile, the Serbs (albeit as Yugoslavia) had great success in 1999 and 2001, and then had good showings again in 2005 and 2009.

But as the world of handball has come to recognize, the super power has been Croatia, with Olympic gold twice and also one gold and three silver medals in the World Championships between 1995 and 2009.  Clearly the success has largely depended on the star power in the form of players such as Balic, Dzomba, Goluza, Lackovic, Metlicic, Sola and Vori, just to mention a few.  It seemed in 2009, even though it was a disappointment to all Croatians that the expected gold turned into silver, that a new generation was also beginning to be ready to step in, more or less guaranteeing top positions also for many years to come.

In this year’s Championship, however, one had reason to begin to doubt what was happening to the idea of a new generation.  Far too much depended on the Balic-Vori axis, and especially the absence of Metlicic seemed to be a severe handicap.  Lackovic and Alilovic did not reach their level of recent years, and many observers questioned the inclusion of Zrnic on the All-Star team.  Was it because Croatia simply had to have someone on the team and because Balic/Vori did not deserve it, or was it because Zrnic had such success with his 7-meter throws?  But the biggest letdown was clearly the performance of  Balic.  He often looked tired and frustrated, seemingly unable to shine in the absence of a good supporting cast.  He even demonstratively left the game and sat sulking on the bench in some critical moments.

Serbia played in the same group as Croatia both in the preliminary round and in the main round.  Their chances seemed to have been downplayed by the international media.  The prevailing expert opinion was that they did not have enough top players on the team, with only Ilic, Vujin and possibly someone else being worthy of special mention.  But the Serbs really went about business with tremendous spirit and team cohesiveness.  In many games it was really refreshing to watch them and their positive attitude.  It was not just the special battle in the game against Croatia that created such a spark. 

While the Serbian team in the end lost a bit of their energy or edge, they managed to convince many of the experts that here we have a team to be reckoned with over the next few years.  They displayed strong technical skills and their coaching staff brought out good tactical elements in the tradition of the best of the Serb teams of the past.  The scoring strength is clearly there, and the goalkeeping did not turn out to be the weak spot that some had anticipated.  All in all, it is obvious that there is an adequate pool of players to draw from, not just to keep the rivalry with Croatia going, but perhaps enough to put Serbia on a more positive trajectory at a point in time when the Croatians need to show that they have the capacity to manage a generation change successfully.


Iceland – what happened to the fighting spirit??

The results from the preliminary round in the World Championship suggested smooth sailing for the Icelandic Viking ship.  They brought the maximum of four points to the Main Round and seemed to have had a relatively easy time in most of their five games.  It clearly looked as if it would be realistic to gain two or four more points in the Main Round, which then would help secure a place in the semi-finals.

But this was not to be.  Of course, if one looks at the final ranking, a sixth place and a spot in the Olympic qualifying do not seem so bad.  And one should not expect that the results from the 2008 Olympics and the 2010 European Championship could be repeated every time.  But the issue is HOW it all happened!

One might say afterwards that perhaps winning the preliminary group so easily created an illusion, because this group is likely to have been the weakest one, with Austria, Brazil and Hungary playing below normal standard.  But when an Icelandic team needs to get two-four points out of three games, then they normally get it.  Or at the very least, they fight to the last drop of sweat (or blood!) to try to do so.

There have been many instances of this famous fighting spirit in the past.  Personally, having been present, I remember primarily the final preliminary round match against France in the 2007 World Championship.  Iceland had “messed up” against Ukraine and now absolutely needed to win against France to be in the Main Round.  This seemed too big an obstacle, but the Icelandic team came at it with an attitude that just helped demolish the baffled French opponents, 32-24.

The player who for many years personified this attitude was Sigfus Sigurdsson.  Being somewhat of a giant, he is a really friendly person off the court, but on the court he was always a “tiger”, amounting to a real challenge for both the opponents and the referees.  His methods may sometimes have been a bit “borderline”, but he sure knew how to fire up his teammates.

This year’s team really seemed to miss Sigfus.  In the critical opening game in the Main Round against a desperate German team, it was the Germans who took charge by playing an enormously spirited game.  And after Iceland seemingly unnecessarily lost this game, it seemed as if any remaining fighting spirit was completely gone, so both the remaining two games against Spain and France were lost, as was the fifth place game against Croatia.

And it is not as if Iceland is without stars and players with substantial top club experience.  They had no less than nine players with more than 100 games for Iceland, most of them also playing for top clubs in Germany and elsewhere.  And they had Olafur Stefansson, a world-class player for many years, and a team leader with tremendous personality.  But perhaps Olafur is no longer able to “carry” a team in the same way he was, and he is not really a Sigfus character.

Whichever team an international handball fan is supporting, there would always be a special fondness for these remarkable Icelandic players, who have done such a fantastic job in drawing on their limited resources in terms of overall population.  The handball fanaticism is enormous there, and no other country (except Greenland!) has more handball players per capita.  But all of us really have come to expect not just strong results and great player; above all we have come to enjoy that special fighting spirit.  Let us hope it returns soon!


Disastrous German decline

When the German women failed to qualify for the main round in the European Championship last December, one thought that this was about as low as it could get for German handball.  The German women just needed to avoid losing by more than 7 goals in a game against a mediocre team from Ukraine, and miraculously the Germans lost by 9.  This meant that the team will now have to face the strong Hungarians in play-off games for the right to participate in the Women’s World Championship in November.  And if they should fail to qualify, then the chances of participating in the 2012 Olympics are also gone.

But most observers figured that the Germans, one of the traditional powers of handball and the base for the superior Bundesliga, would get their revenge in the Men’s World Championship.  After all, the Germans won the gold as recently as in 2007, albeit with a bit too much advantage of playing at home.  And they were close to the medal round in 2009, so surely they would be at roughly the same level again!?

Of course, the German coach/icon, Heiner Brand, had done his best in recent months to sound pessimistic and frustrated.  He had talked about injury problems, the lack of adequate time of preparation for the team due to the Bundesliga schedule, and also the notion that German players were being ‘crowded out’ by all the foreign star players in the Bundesliga and therefore not getting enough playing time.  It almost sounded as if Heiner Brand wanted to set up an alibi in the case of a negative surprise.

I think one than needs to point out that Germany has two goalkeepers of absolute top class, and that among the court players there were 7 players with 90-170 international games to their credit, and another 5 with 40-70 games.  Not exactly an inexperienced group…  And do not tell me that anyone on the German team is seriously lacking in playing time in Bundesliga.  It may turn out that some younger talents who have been on junior national teams but have not yet reached the level of the senior team are having their opportunities affected to some extent.  But there can be no suggestion that the Germans are worse off then their counterparts from other countries, many of whom spend their year playing for clubs in mediocre leagues.

In any event, the German team did not look like it usual self in the preliminary round.  They benefitted from the fact that the Tunisians and Egyptians were not nearly as strong as in recent years.  In the game against a Spanish team that did not seem to wake up until half-way through Championship, the Germans really had the game in their hands but managed to throw it away despite their many experienced players and really strong goalkeeping.

In the main round, they seemed to come with a new attitude, taking on the previously undefeated Icelandic team with a spirited style and lots of energy.  They won the game, perhaps in part by being allowed to play an overly physical game, but it seemed that they might now be ready to win their next two games and protect their small chance for a semi-final slot.  But instead it was back to the listless style, and both games were lost.  The Germans mostly looked confused and helpless on the attack, and without the necessary cohesiveness on defense.  So the only win came in the placement game against Argentina, where Germany after much effort managed to win by one goal and avoid the bottom ranking among the teams in the main round.

Shocked German supporters and journalists seemed to have difficulties in understanding what had happened.  This result now means that Germany failed to secure a slot in the qualification tournaments for the Olympian Games.  The only remaining chance would come through a sudden resurge and a top position in the European Championship next January.

Heiner Brand has a contract through the next World Championship in 2013, but there was strong speculation that he would announce his early resignation directly after the game against Argentina.  What has now instead happnened is that he has announced he will stay on under ‘certain conditions’.  And here we are back to the issues of more preparation time for the national team, at the expense of the Bundesliga schedule.  And the issue of limiting the contracting of foreign players on the Bundesliga teams again seems to be back.  But the Bundesliga clubs quickly have shown a lack of sympathy, and the the German Federation vice-president has already speculated in public that Brand might soon decide to resign after all.

What a mess!  Clearly the German handball ‘pyramid’ is still capable of fostering young talents, if one judges from results in European and World Championships at the youth level, so the long-term prospects do not seem so bleak.  And like most traditional ‘powerhouses’, the Germans must accept that there are some ups and downs, so that medals cannot be guaranteed in every World Championship.  But right now it seems that the Federation, the Bundesliga and all other stakeholders really need to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and start pulling in the same direction.   German handball fans will to some extent be absorbed by the fate of their club teams, but they will not have a lot of patience with two faltering national teams!


World Championship refereeing seen as fair and honest

Being the former President of the IHF Referee Commission, it is only natural that I received a lot of spontaneous feedback on the refereeing from old handball acquaintances during the Championship.  Of course, I also had my own observations from watching 27 games live and another 7 or 8 on television.  The feedback I received reflects what people see as the most important aspect, especially considering some bad experiences they may have had in the past.  “The referees are being completely fair and honest” is the best way of summarizing the comments I heard.

What my sources imply is that they understand that mistakes are inevitable and must be tolerated.  But as long as the mistakes come out roughly 50-50, as a sign of an unbiased and evenhanded refereeing, then there is general acceptance.  And clearly this matches my own observations.  Yes, there may have been some games where some individual mistakes may have come at a critical stage and possibly may have had an impact on the outcome.  But that is the ‘human factor’ in sports.  With so many games being decided with just a margin of just a couple of goals, also a very strong referee performance may include a critical error or two.

To some extent, I would ascribe the fair and honest refereeing to the emergence of a young new generation of referees.  As I intend to discuss in some future posting, their lack of experience may occasionally become apparent, and there may have been problems with some particular aspects of the rules interpretations in a game.  But these referees are at the beginning of what they hope to be a long career at the international top level, so they will not risk everything by being conspicuously, or even marginally, biased in their work.  They know that they have knowledgeable and alert observers keeping an eye on them, with video software available to capture and confirm any problems.

If anything, the young referees may in some instances have gone too far in instinctively deciding on the basis of their first impressions, somewhat ignoring ‘tactical’ considerations in their game management.  (I will get more into this in a separate posting).  In some other cases, they may have either been too eager to project toughness or, alternatively, a little bit lacking in courage in some situations.  But this is something totally different from bias or favoritism.

One might say that the IHF initiated a ‘youth movement’ at the elite level a number of years ago.  In part this happened out of necessity, with many older, more experienced couples retiring, and in part as a response to the increasing speed of the game requiring a stronger emphasis on fitness and agility. It may be too early to be sure, but it seems from the indications so far that the IHF can be proud of the emerging competence of the new generation of elite referees, especially their adherence to the motto of ‘honesty above all’.


No surprise: goalkeepers determine the fate of their teams

Thierry Omeyer’s key role in the successes of France is well-known.  And it is generally understood that a strong goalie performance can be the key to the outcome in any given game.  So it can be instructive to analyze the goalie performance of some of the top teams in the World Championship.

Most observers recognize that the goalkeeper coming closest to Omeyer’s steadiness and spectacular performances in recent years is Szmal from Poland.  This time he had less support than usual from his teammates, as Poland was hard hit by injuries both before and during the Championship.  Bielecki’s comeback is amazing, but he is not back to his dominant form.  Generally speaking, the Polish team at times looked heavy-footed and sluggish, and their final position as number 8 was rather telling.  But things would have been worse had it not been for Szmal’s fantastic performances in some of the games.

The most exciting young new goalie is undoubtedly Niklas Landin of the Danish team.  He may not yet be absolutely steady, as shown in the final, where he had been replaced in the early stages and then came back in and almost turned the game around single-handedly.  He has already been signed up by Rhein-Neckar-Loewen from the 2012-13 season.  It is interesting to note that both Szmal and Landin are part of the ‘stable’ of young and older goalies who are getting special training by the Swedish goalkeeper guru Claes Hellgren.

A big surprise was caused by the young Swedish goalie Niklas Sjoestrand, who is the second choice goalie for Barcelona but just barely made it onto the Swedish squad.  He narrowly beat out the veteran Beutler for the second slot and was seen as back-up for spot duty behind Mattias Andersson.  But some absolutely fantastic performances, especially against Poland and Croatia, quickly made him the top choice.  When other Swedish key players wavered or were injured, it was Sjoestrand who came through.  While he may not quite have matched Omeyer in the semi-final, he deserves credit for keeping Sweden in that game.

Another young Nordic goalie is Gustavsson from Iceland, who plays club handball in relative obscurity in Switzerland.  When he had top performances, then the Icelandic team looked almost invincible.  But when he was more ‘human’ then the team was a rather pale copy of the ‘viking’ style and attitude so often displayed in recent years.  The veteran Ege in goal for Norway had a similar Championship.  Being perhaps a bit more steady, he nevertheless oscillated between fantastic and more average.  What was noticeable in the case of both Norway and Iceland was the lack of a solid back-up in net.

A surprisingly mediocre goalkeeper performance may have contributed to the relative lack of success for Croatia this time.  By contrast, the surprising performance of Argentina, the only non-European team in the main round, has a lot to do with the amazing job of their goalkeeper Schulz, who has had an anonymous existence in the Spanish second division.  One would imagine that more lucrative offers in a fancier setting will now await him.

Spain started out in a rather feeble fashion in the earlier stages where they did not really look like a medal contender.  The whole team seemed mediocre and uninspired at times.  On paper, Sterbik and Hombrados should have constituted a strong goalkeeper combo, but it was not until late in the event that Sterbik finally showed his abilities and helped his entire team lift itself a couple of notches.  In particular, he was instrumental in securing a win in the bronze medal game.

Finally, another team with a strong combo was Germany.  Both Bitter and Heinevetter had games where they looked brilliant, although sometimes their top form seemed to hold up for only part of a game.  But one thing is clear, the final ranking of the disjointed and listless German squad could have been even worse without their generally strong goalkeeping.


Budget-conscious Swedes ‘sold’ part of the home court advantage

It has become increasingly common in recent decades that two countries join together and organize a World/European Championship.  But it is surely more unusual that the one and only organizer, in this case Sweden, more or less gives away home court advantage to one of the main rivals, Denmark.  This is what Sweden did, quite knowingly and for strictly financial/budgetary reasons, realizing that this might come back and haunt them on the court.

Malmö is located just some 20 minutes away from Copenhagen, just across the bridge.  But Sweden still had Denmark play both the preliminary round and the main round in Malmö, in front of crowds totally nominated by Danes.  And this even though Sweden knew that they would play in this group in the main round, after having started out with strong crowd support in Göteborg.  The fanatic Danes had even bought up most of the tickets for the main round in advance!

So it was really lucky for Sweden that the final match in the main round against Denmark was not a matter of managing vs failing to advance to the semi-finals;  instead it was ‘just’ a matter of avoiding France as an opponent in the semis.  Denmark won the game.  And then, can you imagine, the Danish fans had become so spoiled that they were genuinely upset and protested loudly when they realized that Sweden was finally using its privileges as organizer and the right to play the semi-final against France in the 12000-seat Malmö arena, while Denmark was ‘relegated’ to the 4000-seat arena in Kristianstad, 90 minutes further away from Copenhagen.

A frantic ticket swap effort ensued, both on the internet and outside the Malmö arena.  Danish supporters with tickets to Malmö now scrambled to find scarce tickets for their game, while peddling tickets to the Sweden semi-final in tough competition with the scalpers.  In the end, both teams really got overwhelming crowd support, but only Denmark managed to take advantage, beating Spain.

More generally, the Swedish way of organizing the event was indeed characterized by budget considerations and cost effectiveness.  Typically, the IHF and the organizer insist at the outset that “this will be the best Championship ever”.  And then the hope is that the IHF President will indeed use the key phrase ‘best ever’ in his post-event press conference.  But this time he pointedly chose a more modest label.

Certainly, the organization was not weak and error-prone.  The Swedes are experienced organizers of handball events, and they have the necessary infrastructure.  They know what it takes to put on events that are technically solid and offer all the services needed.  But the problem is that participants, especially the teams and the media, are used to being pampered in an unlimited manner, just for the sake of image and positive feedback.  Such extravagance is not the Swedish approach.

Instead the Swedes could point to having exceeded their budget estimates in all areas, including ticket sales.  And IHF could boast with a TV coverage to more countries and to larger aggregate audiences than ever before.  Of course, the number of tickets sold was not as huge as in Germany 2007 with consistently larger arenas. But the focus is more and and more on television coverage and an adaptation to ‘new media’.  The web cast coverage was a matter of special pride to the TV rights holder, UFA sports.


‘Dream final’ met the expectations

A couple of weeks ago I suggested that France-Denmark would be the most probable match-up for the final, and that this could be a ‘dream final’, if both teams played at their best.  The hope for such a ‘dream final’ came through.  After having demonstrated a convincing form in both the Preliminary Round and the Main Round, both teams were a bit below their best in the semi-finals which they still managed to win.  But in the final they  joined together in putting on real handball propaganda.

Most of the focus may now be on the remarkable feat of the French team in winning successive championships in 2008-11.  And one might want to discuss a bit further about the keys to this success.  But I would argue that we should now instead look ahead and note that we now have at least one other team that will make it tough to talk about France as the clear favorites in the Olympics in 2012 and the next World Championship in 2013.  The Danish team, and its situation for the next few years, has many of the same characteristics as the French one.

For me, the best way of describing the French team is that they have an absolutely remarkable framework of key players, into which it is possible to insert ‘role players’ and new young players who can help carry the team to success, even in the absence of top players such as Narcisse.   It was rather self-evident that Karabatic would be named Most Valuable Player of the Championship.  In several games, including the final, he ‘just’ stepped forward and secured a cushion for France with a couple of seemingly effortless goals.  And he gives his teammates on the offense benefit from the extra attention he is getting.   Of course, he has able support from his veteran colleague Jerome Fernandez, and Bertrand Gille is one of the very best pivots, but ‘specialists’ like Luc Abalo and Michael Guigou also get a chance to shine frequently.  But for me the remarkable thing is that this framework enables young players like Xavier Barachet and William Accambray to step right in and look the kind of stars that in fact they have not yet developed into being.  Also Sorhaindo and Honrubia played well in the earlier rounds.

Apart from Denmark, no other team seemed capable of successfully integrating new players in this way.  In particular Croatia, who in 2009 seemed to have several ‘almost stars’ ready to blossom, failed completely to provide good complements to the Balic-Vori axis. Sweden and Spain each had a good mix of old and young, but not with the same effect as France and Denmark.

But back to the French:  it is not all about offensive weapons of course.  Gille may in fact be more important, and ruthless, as a defender, and Fernandez was always a strong card on defense. Apropos ruthless, we also have Didier Dinart as a key component of the French defense, albeit with some signs of slowing down.  But behind them all is that guy Thierry Omeyer, who is unbeatable when he is at his best and pretty solid even when he is more human.  So for me, the issue for the next few years is if these relatively older defensive specialists will continue to hold up, and/or if France will be able to integrate new defenders in the same seamless way that they have integrated offensive specialists.  Even if the special French system for fostering new talents is remarkable or even unique, one might have some doubts.

I am surprised when I hear suggestions that the Danish silver medals were just a fluke or largely depended on strong crowd support.  These observers may not be aware that the Danish team was harder hit by injuries, both before and during the event, than really any other team and that, looking ahead, they are better placed than most other teams in terms of having young talents ready to step in.  Yes, like the French they have some older players who may not hang in there beyond 2012-13, but they have a ‘long bench’.  To my mind, what did them in was the fact that their pivot, Jesper Noeddesbo, was forced to play the whole event below normal capacity due to injuries, that Thomas Mogensen was unable to play and that, in the final, Gille’s cynical ‘knee to thigh’ on Kasper Soendergaard in the opening minutes, left the Danes with only one long-distance scorer, Mikkel Hansen.  This young players, incredibly enough dismissed by Barcelona not long ago, was superb but not as much of a threat as when having Soendergaard next to him.

For the spectators in Malmö, and for the world-wide TV and web audience, it is likely to have mattered the most that the finally brought together the two teams playing the most exciting style of handball.  Especially the quick movements of ball and feet, the fast pace, the strong shooting, the acrobatics or strong technique from many players, combined with spectacular goalkeeping, made for a really memorable final.  Even when the best teams make it to the final, the importance and emotions of the moment often prevent them from showing their best.  I have been to every World Championship and Olympic final for at least 20 years, and I cannot remember anything better. This is the kind of handball that shows our sport at its best.  Let us hope for a repeat in London in 2012 and in Spain in 2013!


France repeats as World Champs. Denmark wins silver, Spain bronze.

The 22nd edition of the Handball World Championships concluded on Sunday in Malmö with the French emerging as victors. Karabatic & Co defeated Denmark 37:35 in extra time, in one of the closest contests in recent memory.  France’s fourth world title ties them with  Sweden and Romania who each have four as well.

In his latest podcast, Bogdan Pasat is joined again by former Romanian International Cristian Zaharia to discuss and break down the final contests, France’s dynasty and what the rest of the handball world must do in order to dethrone the mighty French. Tune in for another 45 minutes of expert analysis available to you,  only on THN.


Men’s World Championship – Main round review, semis preview.

With the Sweden 2011 main round completed and the Semis just hours away, THN’s Bogdan Pasat talks to former Romanian International and 1993  World Championship bronze medalist Cristian Zaharia about the ongoing men’s World  Championship competition, the Pan Am representation, the upcoming semis and the psychology of winning at the highest level.

Don’t miss it as there is something for everyone in this 55 minutes long interview.


Time Shifting: Why would I watch any other way?

I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again.

I know it is Monday afternoon in Sweden and teams are gearing up for the second round of play for Main Round Group I.  Everyone’s also probably still talking about the Croatia – Sweden match on Sunday night.  But in my little private Handball World, it’s still Saturday evening and I’ve yet to scan through Spain – Norway to see if any of it is worth watching.

Yes, with 9 hours separating me from Sweden, it’s not practical for me to watch very many games live, but through the convenience of on-demand viewing at I can watch whenever I want.  I know you old schoolers like the aesthetic of watching it live, but tell me old schooler what are your plans for this coming Wednesday and Thursday night?  Yes, while you and the teams are getting some much needed rest, I will be watch whatever pivotal matches remain in the Main Round at my leisure.  I’ll catch up with you in time for the Semifinals, although I may watch one Friday night and the second one on Saturday night.  Seriously, I must ask; Why would you watch anyway else?

And now for a short plug for  If you haven’t signed up yet, I would strongly suggest that you do.  They’ve lowered the price to $25 for the rest of the tournament and with the on-demand feature you truly can get your money’s worth.  I’ve been plugging my laptop into my TV via HDMI cable and I’ve been pretty pleased with the quality.  Mind you it’s not Hi-Def by any stretch, but it’s TV worth watching.

THN (23 Jul 08):  Extreme Time Shifting in the Desert or How I Hope to Watch Olympic Handball:


Preliminary Round Wrap Up/Main Round Preview

Christer Ahl and John Ryan discuss the final preliminary round results and look ahead to the Main Round.    Again, we apologize for the sound quality.  Occasionally, there is a little echo on Christer’s end.

Also, our memories were a little short in regards to a few players and where they play.  After the fact here’s some info:

Danish Backcourt, Kasper Sondergaard, plays for Danish Club, KIF Kolding.

Iceland Goalie, Bjorgvin GÚSTAVSSON plays for Swiss Club, Kadetten

Argentina Goalie, Matias Schulz, age 28, plays for Badajoz in Spain’s 2nd Division.  Four other players for Argentina play in Spain’s Liga Asobal.  Sebastiean Simonet, 24; Diego Simonet, 21; Federico Vieyra, 22 play for Torrevieja. Gonzalo Caro, 31 plays for Ademar Leon.  It’s worth noting that not only are they playing in Spain’s top league, with the exception of Caro, they should be around a while.


Argentina with huge victory over Sweden

Argentina defeated host Sweden 27-22 in what is probably the biggest victory ever for a Pan American team in World Championship history.  For more on this victory check out this Argentina Handball Blog.

Our correspondent in Sweden, Christer Ahl, concurs:

Argentina defeated Sweden, after having dominated the whole match; great goalkeeping, an aggressive and tenacious defense, good fastbreaks and confident shooting were the key factors;  Erwin Feuchtmann was the top scorer. Argentina celebrated as if they had already won the Championship, but in fact they still need one point against Chile to be sure of a place in the main round;  but if they get there, they will bring the 2 points from yesterday with them. The Swedish team and fans are shocked and disappointed;  they figure they lost their chances for a medal, but they admit the Argentina win was fully justified; they now desperately need to win aginst Poland on Thursday.

In an earlier game, Chile sensationally was ahead against Slovakia the whole game, often by 3-4 goals, but with ONE second to go, the Slovaks managed to equalize. However, while the immediate reaction of the Chileans was one of desperation, they soon begun to realize that the point they had gained was a historic one.

In a game in another group, Brazil came close to gaining their first point. They lost by only one goal against a strong Norwegian team, after they failed to use their chance to tie the game in the final minute.

All in all a fantastic day for PanAmerican handball. Now the fans (including my Swedish friends) will no longer doubt that handball exists on our continent as well!!!