Pivotal games to decide last two quarter-final berths

01 Aug. 2021

Pivotal games to decide last two quarter-final berths

Running updates of Tokyo 2020 men's Group A – follow the action of the Olympic handball tournament live and stay always up-to-date. Spain and Norway already secured wins today, with Norway claiming the third quarter-final ticket of the group. In the final match of Group A, Germany defeated Brazil to seal their berth in the quarter-finals.

We have entered the last round of the group phase of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 men's handball tournament. While Spain and France have already booked their quarter-final tickets before the last day of the preliminary round, three more teams still have chances to claim the last two tickets. 

Today's matches:

  • 14:15 JST: Spain vs Argentina (36:27)
  • 16:15 JST: Norway vs France (32:29)
  • 19:30 JST: Germany vs Brazil (29:25)

23:30 JST Preliminary round ends, on to the quarter-finals

Four wins for European champions Spain as they end the preliminary round with a 36:27 victory over Argentina. Norway join the quarter-finals as they become the first to defeat France, 32:29. The team have now secured their best Olympic result, having participated in the Games only once before and placing ninth, in 1972. The last ticket to the knock-out round goes to Germany. They defeat Brazil 29:25. The South American side are eliminated.

21:00 JST FINAL WHISTLE Germany vs Brazil 29:25

Germany take the points and seal a quarter-final berth at Tokyo 2020 after a convincing performance!

Johannes Bitter closed the German goal with 12 saves at 38% and that didn't change when Andy Wolff came in. In the last five minutes, he made three crucial stops to deny Brazil their momentum and shut off their intentions of coming back.

With seven goals, Brazil's Leonardo Dutra was the top scorer of the match, followed by his teammate Fabio Chiuffa and German backs Steffen Weinhold and Juri Knorr — all of them with six.

20:35 JST Germany grow stronger, Brazil's energy falls

It only gets worse for Brazil after a troublesome last minutes of the first period. Their efficiency levels have dropped with Germany goalkeeper Johannes Bitter on 11 saves at a rate of 42%.

Germany are up by five. The score is 21:16 in the 42nd minute. Their leading scorers are backs Juri Knorr and Steffen Weinhold, with five goals each.

20:05 JST HALF-TIME Germany vs Brazil 16:12

A super last three minutes allow Germany to create a four-goal edge at the half-time break!

21-year old back Juri Knorr equalised at 12:12 as we reached the 27th minute. The next play he completed a fast break after Hendrik Pekeler's steal for Germany to take the lead. While Brazil failed in each of their attacks, Julius Kuhn extended the lead and captain Uwe Gensheimer netted two for a big psychological strike.

Will Brazil be able to recover from these forgettable last three minutes and have a fresh start in the second half?

19:50 JST All level between Germany and Brazil

It's a fight to survive the group phase at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, so it's not surprising to see a tense and stretched first quarter to the game.

The score is equal at 6:6 into the 17th minute, with keepers Johannes Bitter and Leonardo Tercariol doing a great job in the start – both have made four saves from ten shots.

We anticipate a rollercoaster of emotions ahead!

19:20 JST Brazil and Germany play for a quarter-final berth

At Rio 2016, hosts Brazil recorded a historic triumph versus Germany (33:30). However, the European side collected the points in their two latest World Championship clashes, 34:21 at Germany/Denmark 2019 and 31:24 at Egypt 2021.

Tonight's game will be like a final. Whoever wins will take a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 quarter finals. If there's a draw, Germany will go through.

17:50 JST A break until the next game, which will keep Norway on the edge of their seats

Sagosen takes back the leader’s seat in the top scorer standings with 35 goals, six more than Mikkel Hansen and Hampus Wanne and it seems that there will be a three-way battle for the first place, with an outside chance for Denmark’s right back, Mathias Gidsel, who is at his first edition of the Olympic Games. Norway’s star has also added nine assists, which means that was directly involved in 16 of Norway’s 32 goals, a perfect 50% for him.

The Norwegian is also topping the assists charts, with 24 in five games, but former leaders Hansen and Germany’s Philipp Weber are still to play their fifth game. Weber will take on the court at 19:15 JST, when Germany face Brazil in a do-or-die game. Provided the German side do not lose, they will be through, a win lifting them to the third place in the group.

17:43 JST FINAL WHISTLE Norway vs France 32:29

Norway become the third team to qualify from Group A after their win against France, 32:29. The main thing for France was to distribute the minutes well to hand key players some rest and Gille did that, but not without losing Timothy N’Guessan after only three minutes, with an apparent calf problem, which could see him miss the rest of the tournament, as the French back was clearly hobbling back to the locker room.

Sander Sagosen, the game’s top scorer, with seven goals, just did enough in the end to help his team win their third game in the group, while France conceded their first loss, which makes Denmark the only side to stay unbeaten in this competition. Gille will probably not rue the miss chance to secure an unbeaten path to the final of the competition, as France won the group. But the question mark is about the number of turnovers committed by France, as 'Les Experts' had both a bigger efficiency in attack (63% to Norway’s 60%) and more saves by their goalkeepers (15 to 10).

Despite their loss, France still won the group and will face Bahrain in the quarter-finals, while Norway still do not know if they finish third of fourth. They will be third if Germany do not beat Brazil, but go down to fourth if the European side win their game, as Germany hold the tie-breaker against Norway after winning the mutual game, 28:23.

As for the next opponent, Norway could either face Denmark, Sweden or Egypt, but we will find out only after the final game of the day, which sees Denmark lock horns with Sweden.

17:28 JST Sagosen gets hot at the right time

Two saves from Bergerud and two goals from Sagosen see Norway’s best players starting to contribute significantly and this is exactly what they needed, embarking on a 3:0 run, prompted by the two goals scored by Sagosen. Surprisingly, France’s wings are leading the pack, totally dominating on attack. Abalo, Descat and Porte have combined for 12 goals, nearly half of France’s production in this game.

We also saw Timothy N’Guessan at the break and he was hobbling, with his further participation in the tournament being seriously in the balance. Whilst he might not be the best contributor judging by the number of goals scored, he was key in Gille’s tactical game plan. And right now, France might have used him, because they are down three goals, 24:27, with 10 minutes to go, with Sagosen scoring four times between the 37th and 50th minutes.

17:16 JST France bite back to take the lead

Sagosen has not been in his best form at Tokyo 2020 and especially in this game, where he only converted three of the eight shots he tried. This has not deterred Norway, who are constantly trying to apply pressure on the French defence. But France are constantly keeping up and, after their seven-minute scoreless stint, have been improving. Finally, Norway convert two penalties, with O’Sullivan now the designated taker, but left wing Hugo Descat, who has been getting better and better in the past two seasons, kept France in the game, scoring five times.

But as goalkeeper Torbjorn Bergerud saved only five shots throughout the first 40 minutes, despite starting the game as the best goalkeeper in the tournament, with a 35% saving efficiency, France take back the lead for the first time since early in the game, 21:20, with 21 minutes to go. Norway are starting to drift once again, like in the previous games. They simply cannot find the proper consistency in a game at Tokyo 2020.

16:54 JST HALF-TIME Norway vs France 15:15

Gille looked increasingly worried on the bench, as the gap ballooned to four goals, 14:9, as France were unable to score for more than seven minutes. Gille does what any coach would do and substitutes Vincent Gerard for an outfield player and France finally break the deadlock, with Fabregas scoring the first goal for his side after seven minutes and 30 seconds.
It is Norway’s turn to suffer, as the Scandinavian attack hits a snag, helping France build their own 4:0 run, with Nikola Karabatic being the one to tie the game at 14, only for Sander Sagosen to reply in seconds. Sagosen has only scored two goals, slotting in the facilitator role, after assisting five other goals, however failing to keep his team in front, with the score at half-time being tied, 15:15.

But how costly will the penalty misses be for Norway? After Sagosen (twice) and Jondal saw their shots saved by Gerard, it is Kevin Gulliksen who misses from the penalty line in the final second, as the French goalkeeper guessed exactly where the ball will go. Norway have missed four penalties, a problem that has plagued them all the tournament, with no other side missing more than Norway, who have converted only nine from 20, an incredible 45% efficiency.

No other goalkeeper has saved more penalties – seven – throughout the tournament than Gerard, as the French shot stopper is now at 50% efficiency face to face with his opponents. Only Spain’s Gonzalo Perez de Vargas comes close, with six saves.

A win would not help Norway seal the third place, after their 23:28 loss against Germany on Friday, if the German side win the last game in the group, against Brazil. Therefore, Norway would only finish third if they better German’s result against Brazil.

16:36 JST Myrhol hits milestone as Norway power in front

Myrhol just scored his 800th goal for Norway, taking the Scandinavian side to a 6:5 lead after 11 minutes. The pace has really upped in these moments, with five goals scored in the space of 90 seconds, as the teams go back and forth in emphatic fashion. There are no shortcuts being taken, but, as of now, Norway are the team who are dictating the rhythm, yet falling short of stopping France’s attacks. When they had an opening to create the first two-goal lead, Vincent Gerard saved another shot, his seventh in the first 20 minutes, for an excellent 39% saving efficiency, as he faced 18 shots, almost one per minute.

But Norway do score through back Harald Reinkind and Kevin Gulliksen, opening a 3:0 run that prompts Guillaume Gille to call a time-out. Yes, Norway are playing really well and Gille asks his player to take better care of the ball.

16:25 JST France suffer early injury scare

It is not the best start for France, as their first-choice left back, Timothey N’Guessan exits the game with a muscular injury, after only four minutes. Whether it’s something important or not, coach Guillaume Gille will probably not risk anything now with Barca’s back, as he is one of the most important players in his team. The injury-prone N’Guessan has scored eight goals and dished four assists in the first four games of the tournament. His replacement is Nikola Karabatic, the legendary French back, who himself is playing the first games after a serious knee injury.

It’s France who are having trouble in the first 10 minutes of the game, with Norway taking a 3:2 lead, only after their top scorer, Sagosen, missed a penalty, the sixth of 11 in this tournament. And left wing Magnus Jondal also fails to convert one, with French goalkeeper Vincent Gerard saving both! What a tournament Gerard has, with two superb outings in the last two games.

16:15 JST Myrhol ties Ege as Norway’s most capped player all-time

This will be a special occasion for Bjarte Myrhol. The 39-year-old Norwegian line player will tie Steinar Ege as the player with the most caps in history for the national team, 262. Myrhol is also only one goal shy of 800 scored in the history for Norway, as only Roger Kjendalen (939) and Harald Tvedten (809) scored more.
A leader on and off the court, Myrhol, who won the silver medal at the IHF Men’s World Championship in 2017 and 2019, will surely want to celebrate his personal achievement with a win, which would send Norway through to the quarter-finals, regardless of the other results in the group.

16:05 JST Crunch game between European powerhouses coming up

A four-game winning streak is nothing special for France, even at the Olympic Games. 'Les Experts' have won the group with their display in the first four matches, but a crunch game against Norway awaits, another good test in a very tough group, which saw France earn wins against Spain and Germany, another two European powerhouses.

The two sides have met in five of the last six important tournaments, sharing wins between them. While Norway won the last game at the EHF EURO 2020 (28:26), prompting an early exit from France in the group phase, their latest meeting was won by France (28:24) at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in January.

Norway will be hoping from a world-class performance from Sander Sagosen, as their back line was hit-and-miss in the last games, but Sagosen has always been reliable. He is third in the top scorer standings, with 28 goals, one less than leaders Mikkel Hansen and Hampus Wanne. However, Sagosen has converted only 52% of his shots and dished only 15 assists, pipped for the first place in the assist standings by Hansen and his teammate, Mathias Gidsel.

15:39 JST FINAL WHISTLE Spain vs Argentina 36:27

A very well-rounded effort by Spain in this game, who managed to shake off their heavy defeat against France from two days ago and bounce back right on track, with a 36:27 win. Without Federico Pizarro and Diego Simonet, Argentina had their share of trouble to put up a fight, despite the best efforts from their coach, Manuel Cadenas, who headed two wake-up calls in the first half.

Spain cannot lose the second place now in Group A, finishing the group with eight points from five games and will be meeting either Denmark, Egypt or Sweden, whoever finishes third in Group B. 'Los Hispanos' will have to wait until the final game of the day, Denmark vs Sweden, which throws off at 21:30 JST.

12 players scored for Spain today, including goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, with defensive specialist Gedeon Guardiola the only outfield player failing to score at least once. The team was led in goals by right wing Aleix Gomez Abello, who scored five times, after being slotted in the first 15 and the last 15 minutes of the game.

Despite losing all five games and conceding their 400th goal in the competition’s history, Argentina will leave Tokyo 2020 with their heads up high, putting up meaningful fights against Norway (23:27) and Brazil (23:25), but being no match for France, Spain or Germany. Still, the 12th placed-finish will be their worst in the history of the competition. The zenith of this generation has come, with this being the last match for Gonzalo Carou (41-year-old and 270 games for the national team) and Sebastian Simonet (35-year-old and 195 selections). Carou has been a staple for the Argentinian national team, playing at 11 different IHF Men’s World Championship editions and three Olympic Games editions.

15:28 JST Spain cruise to fourth win in five games at Tokyo 2020

Job done for Jordi Ribera and Spain, who are having a good game, without getting any injuries and rotating players so they can remain in form and not slack before their quarter-final game. It has been a well-rounded effort by Spain, who will be celebrating their 40th win in history at the Olympic Games, a feature achieved only by Germany and France.

Spain cannot let the win slip through their fingers now, despite Argentina having a history in mounting comebacks. Two days ago, they were down by 11 against Brazil, only to shave nine goals from that gap to come close to a huge surprise. It did not happen and it is probably not happening today, with Spain’s experience in mind. A nine-goal advantage, 30:21, with nine minutes to go seems impossible to erase in these conditions.

15:16 JST Joker Figueras scores from all sides of the court

Figueras is the jack of all-trades for Spain, scoring from the left wing position two times in a row to take his side to a 21:14 lead. The 32-year-old line player who plies his trade at club level for HBC Nantes has surprisingly been the best scorer for 'Los Hispanos' in this tournament, jumping to the fifth place in the top scorer standings, with 25 goals in five matches, after scoring four times against Argentina. He has passed 200 goals for the national team, currently starting his 85th game in the Spanish colours.

This is also Raul Enterrios’ 288th game for the Spanish side. He won’t reach 300 matches, because he will be retiring after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but could have a maximum of 291 matches if Spain reach the semi-finals, 20 more than the previous record holder, the legendary David Barrufet. Entrerrios has scored once in this game, which is flowing in Spain’s favour – 23:17, with 20 minutes to go.

14:51 HALF-TIME Spain vs Argentina 17:12

Cadenas calls his second time-out, as the Argentinian team show little in attack and are too easily surprised in defence. It looks like it has a bit of an effect, with Argentina quickly scoring three goals on the trot to cut back the gap to five goals, 8:13. But without Simonet and Federico Pizarro, who also got injured earlier in the tournament, it is very difficult for the South American side to create chances. And for a game against Spain, it is almost impossible to win something in this condition.

Spain have started the game brightly, but have faltered until the end of the half, with Argentina’s comeback, who cut the lead from seven goals to three goals, prompting coach Jordi Ribera to take a time-out himself. Calm, composed, he instructs the players to continue playing like they used to and it pays off, with Spain taking a 17:12 lead into the break, after line player Adrian Figueras converts a fast break in the last second of the game, for his 22nd goal in the tournament.

Argentina are heading into their worst-ever Olympic result, failing to win any game and finishing last in the competition, as the only team with zero points. In the previous two editions of the Olympic Games, the South American powerhouse have won a game each time, finishing 10th at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

14:41 JST Spain head to 40th win in Olympic history

Brought in last Thursday to replace the injured Viran Morros, Miguel Sanchez Migallon Naranjo, Spain’s left wing, just scored his first goal for 'Los Hispanos' at Tokyo 2020. Manuel Cadenas called a time-out for Argentina, but it had little influence on his team’s play and little to no impact for Spain’s penchant to win or their desire to secure a good result against the South American side.

Spain are heading to their 40th win in history at the Olympic Games in 71 games and have just scored their 1750th goal in the competition to make it 12:5, with nine minutes to go in the first half. On the other side, Argentina’s talisman, Diego Simonet, has been left outside the roster, due to a muscular problem, a clear reason for the South American team’s struggles against a powerhouse like Spain. Argentina simply cannot compete with Spain without Simonet’s creativity and scoring prowess.

14:28 JST Spain go for the win

Argentina will be heading home after this game and will eye to showcase their best display in this final match against the reigning European champions. Indeed, they start very well, blocking the Spanish attack, but missed clear-cut chances against Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, including two fast break attempts. This way, Spain managed to take the lead back after eight minutes, 4:3, with three goals from right wing Aleix Gomez Abello, who has also converted one penalty shot.

It is quite difficult for players to motivate themselves for this match, but not for Gonzalo Perez de Vargas. The Spanish goalkeeper is a big reason for why his side is leading, 6:4 after 10 minutes, already saving five shots for a 56% saving efficiency. Perez de Vargas had a 29% saving efficiency for the tournament after the first four games, saving 30 shots, just enough to place him 10th in the top goalkeeper standings, led by Norway’s Torbjorn Bergerud.

13:55 JST Special game for both Spain and Argentina

Spain are already qualified and have already sealed the second place in the group, while Argentina cannot exit the tournament higher than the sixth place they are in now. Therefore, we might see several players who are given a rest, but this could be a meaningful game for Spain, who can become only the third team in history to reach 40 wins at the Olympic Games, after Germany (50) and France (44).

Moreover, it will be a special game for both Argentina’s coach, Manuel Cadenas, who was born in Spain and coached the Spanish team between 2013 and 2016, but also for two Argentinian players, Sebastian Simonet and Gonzalo Carou, who will call an end to their international career after this game. Simonet has played 194 games for the Argentinian side, scoring 415 goals, while Carou is the all-time selections leader for the South American side, having donned the national team shirt with 269 games and scoring 249 goals, the sixth-highest amount in the Argentinian national team’s history.

This game will throw off at 14:15 JST and is the first one in Group A.

13:45 JST Who will claim the last tickets? 

With four wins in four games, France have already secured the first place in Group A and will face Bahrain in the quarter-finals. Until then, the French side will play another tough game against Norway, who need a point to be absolutely sure of progressing to the next round, after conceding two losses in the last three games at Tokyo 2020.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s coach Manuel Cadenas will face his former side Spain, whom he coached between 2013 and 2016. Argentina are out and will try to avoid their worst-ever finish at the Olympic Games, after winning a game each in both editions they played in.

The last game will have the biggest implications for qualification for the quarter-finals. If Germany lose against Brazil, they could be out of the competition, if Norway win at least a point against France. The two sides met twice in 2021, first at the IHF Men’s World Championship, where Germany took a 31:24 win in the main round, and in a friendly game in Nuremberg on 9 July, when Brazil conceded a 26:36 loss.

What they need to qualify:

  • France: already through to the quarter-finals
  • Spain: already through to the quarter-finals
  • Germany: do not lose against Brazil / lose against Brazil by maximum six goals and Norway lose against France / lose against Brazil by seven goals AND score minimum 22 goals
  • Norway: do not lose against France / lose against France AND Germany win against Brazil / lose against France AND Brazil win against Germany by eight goals or more 
  • Brazil: win against Germany AND Norway do not lose against France / win against Germany by two goals or more OR by one goal and score more than 27 goals AND Norway lose against France
  • Argentina: out of contention

All the relevant statistics, the standings and the schedule for the men’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games tournament can be found here.