Men's handball preliminary play concludes on the second Monday of the 2012 London Olympics. After six closing group games, just eight teams will remain in the hunt for gold, sliver, and bronze, which will be decided not in the Copper Box, but in the larger Basketball Arena in Olympic Park. A look at the races in the two preliminary group follows after the jump.
Note that IHF scoring awards 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw.
Current Standings: 1. Iceland, 2. France, 3. Sweden, 4. Tunisia, 5. Argentina, 6. Great Britain (eliminated)
Defending Olympic and World Champion France (6 points) and 2008 silver medalist Iceland (8 points) met on Saturday with control of the group on the line. The result was a 30-29 win for the plucky Icelanders which locked up the group for them. The smallest country to ever win an Olympic medal in a team sport can wrap up a perfect preliminary campaign with a win over the eliminated hosts, Great Britain (0 points) (11:15 a.m. ET). Meanwhile, the French take on Sweden (6 points), a squad that's not as powerful as they were a decade ago, with spots A2 and A3 on the line (3:15 p.m. ET). A draw will see the French finish ahead of the Swedes, thanks to a slight edge (+2) in goal differential. The final quarterfinal spot for the group will go to the winner of the 6:15 a.m. ET contest between Argentina (2 points) and Tunisia (2 points). A draw would result in the Tunisians advancing, thanks to their superior goal difference (-6 vs. -23).
Projected Standings: 1. Iceland (10 pts.), 2. France (8 pts.), 3. Sweden (6 pts.), 4. Tunisia (4 pts.), 5. Argentina (2 pts.), 6. Great Britain (0 pts.)
Current Standings: 1. Croatia, 2. Spain, 3. Denmark, 4. Serbia, 5. Hungary, 6. South Korea (eliminated)
Spain (6 points), who won bronze in Beijing, takes on 2004 gold medalist Croatia (8 points) in the showcase game of the final day (12:30 p.m. ET). The Croatians need a single point to lock up position B1. Meanwhile, thanks to a loss in their earlier meeting, Spain would need Denmark (6 points), the current European Champion, to lose to eliminated South Korea (0 points) (9:30 a.m. ET) to earn the No. 2 seed. Advantage, Danes. The final quarterfinal spot will go to the winner between Hungary (2 points) Serbia (2 points) (4:30 a.m. ET), with the Serbs owning a goal differential advantage (-8 vs. -17) in the event of a draw.
Projected Standings: 1. Croatia (10 pts.), 2. Denmark (8 pts.), 3. Spain (6 pts.), 4. Serbia (3 pts.), 5 Hungary (3 pts.), 6. South Korea (0 pts.)
That means my projected bracket for men's handball looks like this...
(A1) Iceland vs. (B4) Serbia
(B2) Denmark vs. (A3) Sweden
(A2) France vs. (B3) Spain
(B1) Croatia vs. (A4) Tunisia
UPDATE: The only change from my projected bracket is Hungary's presence, the result of their three-goal win over Serbia. Iceland and Croatia enter the medal round with perfect 5-0-0 records. That means Wednesday's quarterfinal lineup looks like this.
UPDATE 08/07: Times updated.
(A1) Iceland vs. (B4)
Serbia Hungary, 6 a.m. ET
(B2) Denmark vs. (A3) Sweden, 1 p.m. ET
(A2) France vs. (B3) Spain, 9:30 a.m. ET
(B1) Croatia vs. (A4) Tunisia, 4:30 p.m. ET
Semifinals are set for Friday at 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. ET.
On Sunday, the bronze medal game will start at 6 a.m. ET, with the contest for gold beginning at 10 a.m. ET.
Well, if the group winners are to meet in the final, they are probably going to have to get past dominant teams in the semifinals. European champions Denmark will certainly test an Icelandic team that's in search of its first major championship, while the bottom half of the bracket might see a semifinal matchup of the last two Olympic champions, with France's two recent world titles perhaps giving them a slight confidence boost over 2004 gold medalist Croatia.
Do you think France can continue its global dominance or will Denmark trump them? Might Iceland finally break through and claim gold?
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