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Date: 1/12/2017

In Group A's first game of the day, Russia beat Japan in Nantes. Top scorers for both sides were Atman, Dibirov & Shishkarev for Russia scoring six each while Doi scored five for Japan.

GROUP A: Russia vs Japan 39:29 (18:15)

With Japan keeping up with their opponents for 45 minutes, one asks the questions: Was it nervosity? Or just a nice warm-up for the Russians? Regardless of the reason, Japan's start to the game wasn't encouraging with Timur Dibirov and his partners taking full advantage of their opponents' lost balls to take an early lead, 6:1 after six minutes. 

A time-out taken by Antonio Carlos Ortega, Japan's coach, helped to improve their game. Hiroki Shida finally showed his skills with long distance shots, while Masatake Kimura was finally making some saves in the goal. Within minutes, Japan was back in the game, with the Russian's only leading by three (12:9). Japan gradually took confidence, often using seven players on the court and an aggressive defence. Even though Pavel Atman, with four goals, was trying his best, his teammates were experiencing too many defensive problems to create a gap again. At half-time, Russia was only leading by two, 18:15.

After the break, the Nantes crowd gradually took side for Japan. No surprise, then, to see the Asian side come back into the game, their speed proving to be a big advantage against the tall physical Russians. Ten minutes after the break, they were only one goal down (25:24). Sadly for them, they would never get the chance to even the score. Vadim Bogdanov, stepping in the Russian goal, immediately started to make saves, giving the opportunity to Timur Dibirov and Pavel Atman to score easy goals on fast breaks. This resulted in a growing lead for Russia with the end of the game approaching, some nice in-flight shots,  and a ten-goal victory, the biggest lead of the game, for the Russians (39:29).

Post-match reactions:

Head coach Ortega (Japan): "I don't think that ten goals was really a deserved loss for us. When you are playing against teams with players that are twenty kilos bigger and twenty centimetres taller than you, you have to try new things. Sadly, those new things tired us out and we paid the price in the end".

Head coach Torgovanov (Russia): "In the first half, Japan started with their 0-6 defence, and we found the solution easily, but our problem started when they changed to a more aggressive defence. The difference wasn't not much because we took the ten-goal lead in just a few minutes. I think that the difference was in our goalkeepers' performance." 

In Group A, Norway came out on top against Poland after 60 minutes. It was a tale of two good defences facing each other and, in the end, the difference between Norway and Poland came down to the small details. It was a ten-minute streak without conceding a goal that gave Norway the two points, with a two-goal win.

GROUP A: Poland vs Norway 20:22 (10:12)

If the first game in Nantes was a cavalcade of goals, the second one starts with a lot of turnovers of missed shots. Both Norway and Poland have got their chance but neither manage to take the opportunity and take the lead. Both teams, though, showed very different strategies: Norway chose to make an impact with long-distance shooters Espen Lie Hansen and Sander Sagosen, while Poland prefers to use the strength of their line players; Marek Dacko, in particular, forced the referees to punish their opponent with several two-minutes. But even one man down, Norway still managed to take control of the game, thanks to saves from Espen Christensen and a couple of spectacular shots by winger Kristian Bjornsen. 

At half-time, Poland were down by two, 10:12. But Talant Dujshebaev's guys came out of the dressing room with better intentions, especially defensively. Even though Espen Lie Hansen was trying his best, his partners couldn't get through Adam Malcher. With four saves in the fifteen first minutes of the half, he gave his partners the opportunity to come back into the game. And they did, with Michal Daszek on scoring duties (15:15). From then on, no team will take more than a one-goal advantage, with defence slowly getting the best of the offences. And even when a solution is found, a goalkeeper, a defender or even a post prevents a goal from being scored. And while fate could have chosen either, tonight it chose Norway. A little bit more precise in offence, a little bit more solid on defence, and with a ten-minute streak without taking a goal, that's enough to earn you a victory. With two final goals, Kristian Bjornsen gave his teammates their first victory of the tournament, 22:20.
Post-match reactions:

Michal Daszek (POL): "Norway has played a very good game, we didn't play bad either but in the end, we made a bunch of easy mistakes which allowed our opponents to win. In the last period, we could have scored some goals but we missed the shots. We know we have to improve this so we can make it better for the next game".

Eivind Tangen (NOR): "It was a very tough game, both teams have had the same problem, a very good defence but a not so good offence. I think you can see that it reflects in the scoreline. It was very important for us to get the first victory in the competition, we'll stick to the two points and try to get better for the next game".​