World Handball Championships drawing to a close. By Bogdan Pasat.
By Bogdan Pasat
I’m not going to lie. As the 2013 Team Handball World Championships draws to a close, I’ve got mixed feelings.
On one hand, I’m excited and eager to find out will be crowned champion. On the other hand, I’m sad that another major tournament will be over, too soon. But such is handball life.
On Wednesday, we bid farewell to four teams: Russia , Germany , Hungary and France . The remaining four moved to the semifinals: Denmark , Croatia , Slovenia and Spain .
All this makes for an exciting Friday. BeIN Sport will broadcast LIVE (for the first time in the US) in HD, the semifinal games between Denmark vs. Croatia and Slovenia vs. Spain .
The action will move to the Jordi Palace in Barcelona .
In semifinal number 1, Spain will entertain Slovenia . Spain has played consistently well in the knock out stages, recovering nicely after their last preliminary round game defeat to Croatia .
Spain knocked out Serbia in the round of 16 and disposed of Germany in the quarters. Neither game was easy for Spain . Yet their depth proved too much to overcome for a disorganized and mismanaged Serbian team.
On Friday, the 2005 world champs have a shot at advancing to their second ever World Championships Gold Medal game as they face this tournament’s Cinderella team, Slovenia .
The 2004 European Championship silver medalists have never placed higher than sixth at the World Championships . Yet, for a team with such a young resume on the International stage, Slovenia features plenty of fire power and seasoned veterans, expertly coached and managed by head coach Boris Denic, a former goalkeeper.
Slovenia , still undefeated in this campaign, was the number one seed in Group C. They dispatched of Egypt in the round of 16 and Russia in the quarters, despite playing without Dragan Gajic. The Montpellier HB right winger suffered a muscle injury and was replaced by Petar Pucelj.
You can expect another close contest. Spain’s home field advantage will play a huge role in the outcome of the game, as the vociferous crowds will make it difficult for Slovenia to keep their cool. Spain proved that they can win without a backcourt (only one of nine from nine meters against Germany ). Slovenia will need stellar games from the Zvizej brothers and the goal keeping tandem of Skof and Prost .
As much as I would like to see Slovenia through to the final, I think Spain’s scoring depth and size, along with wingers Tomas and Rocas and the backcourt of Maqueda and Sarmiento will be too much for Slovenia to overcome, especially without Gajic . Spain by 3.
The other semifinal match will feature two number one seeds.
Denmark and Croatia are both undefeated thus far. Croatia convincingly knocked out France, their eternal nemesis in the quarters so their psyche is high.
Denmark hasn’t really been tested yet but the current European Champs have very much proven their mettle.
Croatia , who came into this tournament without playmaker Ivano Balic, saw Ivan Cupic stepped in to the leadership role. The right winger is the 5th highest goal scorer of the competition with 42 goals through 7 matches. HSV Hamburg left back Lackovic along with veteran Paris SG pivot Igor Vori provide the offensive punch Croatia needs to put teams away.
One thing is clear. Croatia’s attacks feed off their defense. They have the second most steals in the tournament (128) as well as blocked shots (48). This should make for an interesting matchup as Denmark strength is their balanced offense. The Danes 9 meter efficiency is at 50% (which is good for 3rd best behind Slovenia and Spain ). Denmark also has the most wing shots attempts (62) and is tied for 1st in wing shot efficiency with 71e percent.
Anders Eggert and Hans Lindberg are arguably the best wingers in this tournament and give Denmark a lot of options. Add Mikkel Hansen , 2011 IHF World Payer of the Year , to the mix and one can see the Danes' firepower prowess.
Me thinks it will come down to goalkeeping. Croatia’s Allilovic vs. Denmark’s Landin .
Ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the saved shot efficiency of all remaining goalies with at least 100 shots against, they are both capable of turning the game on a dime.
Croatia by 2.