Brazil’s Tokyo 2020 ticket: tears, smiles and waiting
15 Mar. 2021
Sunday night in Podgorica, Montenegro, Brazil overcame their South American rivals Chile 26:24 (11:17) in their third and final match of the Tokyo Handball Qualification 2020 – Men’s Tournament 1 and then face an anxious wait for the result of the Norway vs Korea clash to decide their Tokyo 2020 fate.
And just under three hours later it was confirmed: the Europeans beat the Asian side by 15 and with it, take the Brazilians with them to Japan.
“We watched all the Norway game from the restaurant (next to the arena) to see the result,” said Brazil’s Gustavo Rodrigues to ihf.info. “We were so happy in the end when they won the game and we took the place to Tokyo 2020. It means a lot for us and for handball in Brazil.
“You know the situation is not too good now because of all the things that are happening in the world, but we are really happy to be at the Olympics one more time, and I hope we can continue like this.
“To be honest, I think for now I don’t have any idea how it feels to qualify yet,” added the right back. “But I already cry, I smile – I had a lot of emotions in only a short period of time, it's really crazy. We are so happy and I think I will take some days to process all of this.”
The qualification is the sixth time the Brazil men’s team have qualified for an Olympic Games and follows on from their most recent outing in 2016, as hosts. But it was nervous display against their continental cousins, who themselves could have qualified had they won by four or more goals – a difference they had for 41 minutes.
“It was a very nervous game and we didn't go into it with a calm mentality to do what we know: to play our handball, handball that we know, so Chile did an amazing job,” said Brazil captain Henrique Teixeira to ihf.info.
“They fought, they played very intelligent handball and I just have to say congratulations to them. In the second half, we tried to find our best game and, in the end, we found a lead.”
Brazil needed that second half performance as they found themselves 11:17 behind at the break, but some words were exchanged and the Brazilians found their way eventually to win and put to bed memories of their 2019 Pan American Games 29:32 loss against Chile.
“In the first half I think our mentality was not so clear of what to do in attack, and also the defence we was like in another world, you know, not concentrated in the game,” said Teixeira, who has a Rio 2016 tattoo on his arm. “We took 17 goals which is a lot for us and in attack we only scored 11. So we thought about these two things and about concentration, this was the key of the first half.
“We had a lot of good discussions at half time,” added the centre back, maybe hinting it was more than the polite chat he described. “You know [it was] like an alert for everybody and we tried erase the first half, to ask ourselves: ‘What we are doing here?
“We told ourselves to be in the game, not somewhere else. To not be nervous and just play the game – it is handball and not a fight. We had to play clever and calm. I think everybody understood this and this is what was proposed [to be different] from the first to the second half.
“Chile were warriors against us, they deserve a lot [of credit], but we were also playing well and we wanted it a lot too. Lima was hard for us as I think it was the first time in history that we lose against Chile.
“It was about concentration in the end. We got concentration in defence, and we had an amazing goalkeeper in the second half. I think this combination of the focus of the defence and the goalkeeping performance meant we could go on the attack and could work calmer; it gave us the calmness to attack.”
That goalkeeper was Leonardo Tercariol who ended with 15 saves from 29 shots (52%) and along with fellow shotstopper Cesar Almeida, scoured a laptop at half-time, plotting how best to thwart their opponents attack with that work forming part of a wider series of study on Chile, who have risen in recent years to give Brazil many problems.
“It was clear that when Chile were shooting, the video work we did came into the game,” said Tercariol after the game. “I looked at many, many videos from Chile and I knew what to do in the match, but our job for this [qualification] began five years ago.
“Chile have done some really, really, really good work since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to try and get this Olympic place and have a good team with many experienced players,” he added. “It’s good for us to have tough [continental] competition, you need to progress and keep going up a level.
“I wish Chile good luck in the next Olympic Games [qualification cycle] and I hope that will play together at an Olympic Games.”
But the next Olympics start in July and Brazil will be there alongside Norway, France, Portugal, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Japan, Spain, Egypt, Argentina and Bahrain – a challenge that Brazil will relish.
“We know all the teams at Tokyo, they were all in the world championship at the beginning of the year and can play against them all,” said Rodrigues. “We will be ready to play.”