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Date: 12/19/2013

They faced already in the preliminary round, when Brazil beat Denmark 23:18, now both teams clash again in the second semi-final of the Women’s World Championship on Friday (20:45 hrs. local time).  

Brazil: Samba girls reach out for the stars

Alexandra do Nascimento was happy and relaxed after the thrilling quarter-final against Hungary on Wednesday evening. “It was a great handball day not only for Brazil, a great day for South America”, the right wing resumed. “It was our first goal to reach the knockout stage, the second was the semi-final and now we’re looking for a medal”, she adds.

After the final whistle of the extra-time thriller against Hungary had been blown, the World Handball Player of the year was acting as dance teacher on the floor. “The match was so thrilling, we were under fire, the emotions were simply overwhelming”, Nascimento explained.

The Brazilian samba after the second extra time of this exciting match was a special greeting for the spectators and the fans watching the game on TV at home. After crying bitter tears in Sao Paolo (2011) and London (2012) after highly close eliminations in quarter-finals of World Championships and Olympic Games, Brazil made it to a semi-final of a major international tournament for the first time ever. Goalkeeper Barbara Arenhart was right in the middle of the Samba-dancing-company. “What a day”, Arenhart smiled: “We also cried today – but tears of joy.”

Now Brazil will cross the swords for a second time during this tournament with the Danes. Brazil won the final match at preliminary round in Nis by 23:18. “It was a good result for us”, Danish born Brazilian coach Morten Soubak looks back: “But it is only a result for statistics. The semi-final will be a completely different match.” Soubak smiled, when he added: “My friend Jan Pytlick joked after the match in Nis, it is not allowed for me to spend my holidays in Denmark in the next two years. Perhaps after the semi-final I can’t come home for four years.”

Nascimento was no longer set up for a joke by looking upon the semi encounter: “We have reached the next peak of our career. But I only can repeat my words from the preliminary round: This match will be very, very hard for our team. We learnt playing handball from Denmark. We studied the Danish style; we follow the Danish example to celebrate the game”, the Brazilian top scorer at the tournament (41 goals) said. And goalkeeper Barbara Arenhart simply adds: “Now we only have finals!


Denmark: New stars in a rejuvenated team

They arrived in Serbia to learn, to improve and to build the base for their upcoming main goals, but all in a sudden Denmark are on the big stage to go all the way. “Winning the title on home ground at the 2015 World Championship and fight for the title at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio” had been the main goals, set by the Danish Handball Federation.

Coach Jan Pytlick, two times Olympic gold medallist in 2000 and 2004, is in the middle of a build-up process for a new generation. By winning titles and medals at younger age category events like European and World Championships and the big strikes becoming first ever Olympic Youth Champions in girl’s handball the Danes are on the right track to fulfill all their tasks now in senior level.

“It is huge to be in the semi-final of a World Championship. And now we have only one big aim: the final in Belgrade,” Tine Ostergard Jensen spread her confidence after beating Germany in the quarter-final by 31:28.

For sports director and men’s national team coach Ulrik Wilbek the two wins in the knock-out stage were important steps for the development of the young team: “We were very close to go out in the eighth-final against Montenegro. And we also were close to go out against Germany. For women´s handball in Denmark reaching the semi-final like in 2011 really means a lot.”

After the golden years with gold medals at European and World Championships and three Olympic titles women’s handball had been clearly overtaken by their male counterparts. “We need success to raise the public interest. And those players are on the best way,” Wilbek said.

As usual the Danes count on their counter attack specialists like Ann-Grete Nörgaard or Kristina Kristiansen (top scorer of the team by 32 goals). But additionally the Danish defence has clearly improved throughout the competition. “The defence was the key against Germany,” Pytlick said. But also the goalkeepers Cecilie Grewe and Rikke Poulsen have fantastic statistics.