Continents clash in women's Group A

25 Jul. 2021

Continents clash in women's Group A

Running updates of Tokyo 2020 women's Group A – follow the action of the Olympic handball tournament live and stay always up-to-date. All three matches were rather one-sided affairs, with the Netherlands, Montenegro and Norway claiming commanding wins.

After the men's teams opened the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 yesterday, the women’s tournament throws off today, with three games in Group A scheduled. 

Today's matches:

  • 09:00 JST: Netherlands vs Japan (32:21)
  • 14:15 JST: Montenegro vs Angola (33:22)
  • 16:15 JST: Norway vs Republic of Korea (39:27)

19:00 JST Norway leading the pack with +13 goal difference

That’s Group A done for the day, with three straightforward wins by the favourites. There was little history in two of the games, with the Netherlands taking a 32:21 win against Japan, while Norway cruised to a 39:27 win against the Republic of Korea and a lead in the standings after the first round.

Montenegro doubled down with a 33:22 win against Angola, after they only led by one at half-time (13:12), settling into the second place. The three teams could be already looking for the quarter-finals, but there are still four rounds left in this group.

18:30 JST Quotes after Norway's win

Camilla Herrem, Norway left wing

On the game: “I think we had a very good start today. Of course, there were opening nerves and everything in the start, but after some minutes I felt our defence was getting better and we had a perfect goalkeeper today as well. Then we just got in the flow more and more, and after a while I think we looked like ourselves so it was a very good opening match today.”

On whether she expected such a clear win over Republic of Korea: “Not at all. Korea is such a strong team and they’re so good at the smaller passes and they’re so fast, so we were not expecting this type of result – we were hoping to win the game but this was over all our expectations I think.”

On the next game, against Angola: “They are also a team that we’re not playing games against so often so we need to be totally focused on the game, but now we have video from the game today. Against Korea we didn’t have so much video.”


17:55 JST Record-breaking game for Norway

It might be hard for Norway to break records after playing 46 games at the Olympic Games, but the Scandinavian powerhouse is still doing it, with its golden generation.

This is the first time Norway have scored 39 goals in a game in the competition, breaking their record of 37 set in the semi-finals at Rio 2016 when they conceded a loss against Russia (37:38) after extra-time.

In the history of the competition, there were only four times where a team scored 40 goals or more. The record is still held by Austria, in a 45:26 win against Brazil at Sydney 2000, followed by Hungary (42) and the Republic of Korea (41 and 40). Five teams have also scored 39 goals before Norway.

17:42 JST FINAL WHISTLE Norway vs Republic of Korea 39:27

In December 2019, at the IHF Women’s World Championship, Norway steamrolled the Republic of Korea 36:25 in a preview of what was to come at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The competition might have been postponed for one year, but the difference did not swell, as the Scandinavian team looked faster, stronger, better and more focused than their old rivals. While a decade or two back, Norway would have had real trouble against the Republic of Korea, they just completed their biggest win against their former Asian rivals in the competition, 39:27, scoring the number 34 win at the Olympic Games, just one shy of Korea’s all-time record.

They did it by deploying the same strategy they stayed true to and found a worthy successor to Heidi Loke on the line player position. 30-year-old Kari Dale enjoyed her best game for the national team, scoring 11 goals, by completely dominating the Korean defence time and time again. It was a vintage performance from Dale on both sides of the ball. But she was not the main reason for the win, it was Norway’s sheer tactical dominance who really sealed the deal.

Also, a word on the excellent performance of Silje Solberg between the goalposts, with the Norwegian goalkeeper saving 18 shots for a superb 43% saving efficiency.

Time to rest now for the reigning European champions, who will try to make it two out of two against Angola on Tuesday. The Republic of Korea play against reigning world champions the Netherlands, in what is shaping to be a crucial game for their future in the tournament.

17:16 JST Norway try and save energy

With a long tournament ahead of them, Norway are starting to save some energy for the next games. They started the second half with a 2:0 run, opening a 10-goal gap, only for Korea to answer with their own 3:0 run after Nora Mork missed two shots and Veronica Kristiansen turned the ball over two times.

However, the ever-reliable Kari Dale is still on the court and scored two more goals to take her tally to eight in this game. Norway are still cruising to the end, boasting a 24:15 lead with 20 minutes to go and they look like the full package in this competition.

16:52 JST HALF-TIME Norway vs Republic of Korea 18:10

Korea’s 43% shooting efficiency was their undoing in the first half, but it was truly Norway all the way, from the throw-off until the final whistle after 30 minutes.

Were it not for four one-on-one misses, this would have turned into a rout, as Thorir Hergeirsson’s side are leading by eight goals, 18:10, at the break. What is really astonishing is the level of talent Norway have at their disposal. And the fact that they can score efficiently via every position on the court.

It was clear from the start that Hergeirsson identified the central part of the defence as Korea’s weakness and instructed Kari Dale to attack directly, as she scored six goals in the first half, a huge output for a player who scored 188 goals in 80 games for the Norwegian national team. It was a decision that paid off and now, only 30 minutes separate Norway from their first win at Tokyo 2020.

16:38 JST Vintage performance from Norway in the first 20 minutes

Proper, vintage handball from Norway to throw off the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Their defence is better than what the other teams showed prior to this game, forcing the Republic of Korea to turn the ball over 10 times in the first 20 minutes.

On attack, they are also unparalleled, with a mix of skill and speed that prompted little to no response from the Asian defence. It is really too early, but Norway are cementing their status as favourites of the competition.

Yet this Norwegian team had to sweat for their ticket to Tokyo 2020, after losing the first game in the Olympic Qualification Tournament in March against Montenegro, 23:28. They bounced back against Romania back then and won 29:24, but this looks like a totally different Norwegian team. More in the mould of the one that went undefeated to seal the EHF EURO 2020 title last December. Bar from some open shots missed by the Scandinavian side, they are still rolling, taking a 12:6 lead after 19 minutes.

16:30 JST Dale leads the way for Norway

This is a superb game. The Republic of Korea had the better start, but Norway quickly bounced back, deploying their trademark game, with fast positional attacks and efficient fast breaks, including one open goal shot converted by Nora Mork, after a ball recovered by the Norwegian defence.

Line player Kari Dale stands out both in defence and in attack and there is no surprise that Norway, who have scored through five different players, including three goals from Dale, are in the lead.

A superb finish by left wing Camilla Herrem made it 8:3 after 10 minutes, prompting the Republic of Korea to take a time-out, as a 5:0 Norwegian outburst in only four minutes created a big advantage for the Scandinavian side.

It will be a big ask for Korea to bounce back, especially if Norway retain the same defensive acumen.

16:00 JST Group A closes in fiery finale

Group A will close today with a fiery clash between Norway and the Republic of Korea. The two sides are not only the most decorated in the history of the women’s handball tournament at the Olympic Games, six medals each and two gold medals each, but the teams who have won the largest number of games in the competition.

The Korean side hold the record with 35 wins, but are closely followed by Norway, who have cut the gap in recent years. It is also a rematch of the final at Barcelona 1992, won by the Republic of Korea (28:21), and of the semi-final at London 2012, where Norway secured a 31:25 win. This is also the game that featured the most at the Olympic Games, with the two teams facing off for the ninth time.

15:50 JST Record day for Montenegro

Celebrating with their own haka-style movements, Montenegro capped off a superb win, in which they broke a record at the Olympic Games.

The 33 goals scored against Angola are the largest number of goals scored by the Montenegrin side in 14 matches, two more than their previous record (31) set against Great Britain at London 2012.

If they had not conceded the last-second goal scored by Natalia Fonseca, it would also have tied the record for the biggest win at the Olympic Games, a 12-goal win in the same match against Great Britain.

Radicevic’s superb performance, 12 goals, is also one of the best individual performances in the last two Olympic Games. Only Norway’s Nora Mork and Sweden’s Nathalie Hagman (14 goals) and Spain’s Nerea Pena (13 goals) scored more goals in a single game at the Games.

15:42 JST FINAL WHISTLE Montenegro vs Angola 33:22

This was Jovanka Radicevic’s best game at the Olympic Games, having scored 12 goals, scoring a third as much as she did in the entire tournament at London 2012, when she put 31 goals past the opposing goalkeepers. But never mind her performance, the real joy for Montenegro was their superb start of the second half, where a 6:0 unanswered run made the difference and was the backbone of their 33:22 win against Angola.

The African side collapsed entirely in the beginning of the second half and it was more like a psychological meltdown. As the gap was growing, failing to stop the rut made them more careless and they conceded plenty of turnovers, which Montenegro turned into easy goals. In fact, Montenegro scored six goals via fast breaks, easy goals, which saw Angola’s penchant for surprise diminishing.

Yes, there might be things to improve. However, Montenegro have a real chance to throw off the Tokyo 2020 tournament with two wins in two games, as they face Japan on Tuesday.

Angola are meeting reigning European champions Norway in their next match and they will be the underdogs once again. The African side are at their seventh straight Olympic Games and always won at least one game in four of the past five competitions.

15:30 JST Angola struggle to contain Montenegro

Despite missing two penalties, through Djurdjina Jaukovic and Majda Mehmedovic, Montenegro are running away with this game. Angola needed more than seven minutes to score their first goal in the second half and up until the 47th minute, they only mustered four goals. It is not exactly a testament to Montenegro’s defensive force, rather than Angola completely dropping their level, staying passive in attack and turning the ball over multiple times from easy positions.

It all points to a Montenegrin win, they lead now by seven goals (23:16), a crucial one to start the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, in emphatic fashion. Yet. it still feels like Montenegro could use an old-fashioned back player, like a prime Bojana Popovic. Too much to ask? Probably so, but this turned from a balanced game into one with a predictable outcome.

15:15 JST Radicevic already on the top of the goal scorer standings

The Montenegrin right wing has already climbed to the top of the goal scorer standings, after scoring seven goals in the first half, tying the Netherlands’ left back Lois Abbingh and Brazil’s Bruna de Paula. She added one more in the second half to lead the standings by herself.

Meanwhile, Montenegro have reverted to their natural playing style, with Mehmedovic back on the left wing and Jaukovic slotted in the left back position. It worked seamlessly, as the European side jumped to a 4:0 run to start the second half, prompting Angola’s coach, Filipe Cruz, to take a time-out.

After 35 minutes, Montenegro are leading 17:12 and are getting closer to winning the first game at the Olympic Games since the semi-final against Spain at London 2012.

14:52 JST HALF-TIME: Montenegro vs Angola 13:12

Boasting players who can play on multiple positions is definitely a plus, but are Montenegro onto something when they put Majda Mehmedovic, a left wing, on the right back? During the first half, Jelena Despotovic, who was usually playing as a right back, is now on her native position, left back. It might be confusing for Angola, who definitely did not expect this, but does it really pay off?

After an action-packed first half, where both teams traded both goals and turnovers, Montenegro have the slightest of leads, 13:12. And the Angolan side might have goalkeeper Tereza Almeida to thank, as she saved three shots in the last 13 minutes to keep Montenegro in check.

It is a testament to Angola’s true strength, a team who are playing from the bottom of their hearts and letting nothing change their style. This is a team full of speed, athleticism and creativity and Montenegro, a renowned team in Europe for their tough defence, had their share of trouble by trying to stop the Angolan attack.

Right now, this looks like a pivotal game for the future of the group, despite being the opening game for the two sides.

14:40 JST Kassoma, a true force of nature

Angola’s line player, Albertina Kassoma, is wreaking havoc in the Montenegrin defence, constantly overpowering her opponents, which is no easy thing. But there is still a lack of polish, a lack of a certain tactical nous for Angola, which helps Montenegro thrive in attack. In the first 20 minutes, the European side converted 71% of their attacks, with the two Angolan goalkeepers, Helena Souza and Teresa Almeida, saving only two shots.

Meanwhile, Radicevic is a woman on a mission: she is scoring via fast breaks, is on penalty duty and also is a focal point of the Montenegrin attack, constantly driving into the centre of the court. However, Bojana Popovic’s side also needs help in defence, where goalkeeper Ljubica Nenezic saved three shots, yet conceded some easy goals. With Djurdjina Jaukovic a non-factor up until this point, the game is still on knife’s edge, 11:10.

14:27 JST Radicevic, well on her way to 1000 goals for Montenegro

The best goal scorer in history for Montenegro, Jovanka Radicevic, continues to add to her tally. She started the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with 865 goals and has already scored four of the first five Montenegrin goals in the competition. However, Radicevic cannot do everything by herself in what shapes up to be a very physical came. Two Angolan players and one Montenegrin player have already served two-minute suspensions. But despite this, Angola have constantly found ways to attack and to score goals, either on the wings, or with powerful shots from the nine-metre line.

It certainly looks like Montenegro have a tough game ahead, but will their experience prevail? Right now, the start is more balanced than they would have wanted, with the two sides tied at 5:5 after 10 minutes. With Montenegro relying on centre back Itana Grbic, who also played left wing in the past, to deliver the goods in attack and dish assists to her teammates, how long can Angola push the tempo?

14:00 JST Two-time lucky for Angola?

Back in London in 2012, Montenegro took the silver medal at the Olympic Games, in their first-ever participation, with a superb performance from left back Bojana Popovic, who scored 46 goals throughout the tournament. Popovic is back at the Olympic Games, albeit in a different position, as the coach of the Montenegrin side, who aim to improve on their last-placed finish at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The Montenegrin side is still full of experience, but with an exciting younger generation entering into the fray, there is still plenty of expectation, especially after progressing from an Olympic Qualification Tournament, where they beat Norway. True, the competition was held in Podgorica, but Montenegro showed real glimpses of potential.

Their first test at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be against Angola, a team against whom Montenegro lost at Rio 2016, 25:27. The African champions are a force to be reckoned with, especially after having several players in European championships at club level – but can they repeat the success from five years ago? Stay tuned to read more about the game, starting at 14:15 JST.

13:00 JST Quotes after Netherlands' win

Kelly Dulfer, Netherlands left back

On the great start: “It’s amazing to play the Olympics and to start the Olympics with this result is fantastic.”

On their preparation to be at 100% from the start, despite the unusual match time: “We prepared really good. I think it was hard in the beginning to see that we play at 9am but we prepared for it and I think we were so ready. We were so ready to play the Olympics – we enjoy it so much. You saw that everybody was happy and everybody wanted to fight and that’s why we got this good result.”

On Japan, against whom their last match went to extra time and the difference today: “We know that Japan are playing really fast and they are so motivated as well, and they play on home ground. We said to each other we have to fight and give 100%, otherwise they can make it hard for us, and we started from the first second to fight and I think that brought this result.”

On being back in Japan: “Japan has a good feeling for us. We became world champions in Japan and now we are back in Japan, so it’s a really great feeling. I think the organisation here is really good — that they could organise the Olympics here with Corona and all the difficult stuff. I have real respect for the organisation. It feels so good and also safe to be here in Japan.”


11:00 JST Record-setting win for the Netherlands

This was Netherlands’ biggest-ever win in the history at the Olympic Games, a two-goal difference over the 32:23 win against Brazil in the quarter-finals at Rio 2016.

The Dutch side also went close to breaking their goals scored record at the Olympic Games, 34 against Russia five years ago, yet they will have to wait a bit more for that.

However, this game also set a negative record for Japan, the largest number of goals conceded in one match at the Olympic Games, one goal more than the previous record against the Soviet Union at Montreal 1976.

It was a dominant performance from the Netherlands, who also had the only shot hitting 100 km/h. Unsurprisingly, it came from Lois Abbingh in the first half, with the left back also scoring goals with shots that hit 99 km/h and 97 km/h.

10:25 JST FINAL WHISTLE Netherlands vs Japan 32:21

Well, the Netherlands look to be back at their best, even though they are missing back Estavana Polman. The understanding between centre back Nycke Groot and left back Lois Abbingh was superb, their goalkeepers had a pretty slick outing, with Rinka Duijndam and Tess Wester combining for 14 saves at a 40% save rate, while the team as a whole functioned like a well-oiled mechanism. Sure, there were problems, the 11 turnovers are pretty much for a competitive game, but this is a very good place to start for the reigning world champions, who have been working to get their magic back. A 32:21 win is always a good to start a tournament.

As for Japan … this is still a work in progress. The lack of experience at the highest level cost them, as they lost the game in the opening stage, where they conceded seven goals in the first five minutes, six of which came from Lois Abbingh. It is plainly too many at this level. Their goalkeepers also started saving shots when it did not matter anymore, while the defence has seen too many errors. Some food for thought before the match against Montenegro, which will take place on Tuesday.

The Netherlands will face the Republic of Korea in their next match. It's a crunch game in the second round, a game that promises to be a stronger challenge for Emmanuel Mayonnade’s side.

10:03 JST Good to see Groot back for the Netherlands

Influential centre back Nycke Groot met an end to her international career after winning the IHF Women’s World Championship in 2019 with the Netherlands, but a flurry of injuries suffered by the Dutch side meant that Groot was asked to reconsider her decision. And it is truly a joy to watch her play again at international level, having already scored three goals in the game against Japan, two of the goals coming in the second half. With her mix of creativity and explosiveness in the breakthroughs, it truly brings another dimension to the Dutch side.

While the Netherlands might have lost their focus and composure a bit in the second half, they are still leading by a massive margin (21:12) after 40 minutes. It is a foregone conclusion that they will win, but will they break some sort of record? Their biggest win at the Olympic Games was a nine-goal success in the quarter-finals against Brazil (32:23) at Rio 2016. Let’s wait and see.

09:35 JST HALF-TIME Netherlands vs Japan 18:10

For a moment, it looked like the Netherlands were going to break their record of 34 goals scored in one game at the Olympic Games, set against Russia at Rio 2016. But since then, their attack slowed down, turnovers have soared and the Japanese defence got better and better, entered into a rhythm.

They had an-eight minute stint without a goal scored. Yet the early difference created was too big for Japan to save something from this game, while their attack is still seriously underperforming, converting only 43% of their shots. With this numbers, the result at the break, 18:10, is not a surprise.

Lois Abbingh is still the top scorer of the game with six goals, only four less than the entire Japanese side. And it really looks like the Dutch side could be once again at their best after an underwhelming six place at the EHF EURO 2020. They might be missing 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship MVP Estavana Polman, but their mettle should be tested in the next games, against better opponents.

09:19 JST The Dutch feel at home once again in Japan

Only 12 minutes have elapsed since the start of the match and it is probably game over for Japan! The Dutch side are riding a superb form to jump to a 11:3 lead and the hosts are getting hammered both in attack and in defence, with the Netherlands at full throttle in both sides of the game.

Japan’s plan to substitute the goalkeeper for an outfield player has backfired, conceding three open goals up until this point, with the Dutch only missing one shot, for an outstanding  92% shooting efficiency.

Japan have all eyes on them in these Games and certainly want to deliver, but they are not looking up to the task in this game. They seem to be far away from the form shown at Kumamoto 2019, when they did surprise some teams, including securing a 17-goal win against Romania.

On the other side, the Netherlands won their first world title in Japan and are feeling at home here.

09:07 JST Flawless start for Abbingh and the Netherlands

It has really been plain sailing for the Netherlands in the first six minutes of the game. But has anyone been starting as good as Lois Abbingh in an Olympic Games match? It has truly been a gem, with the left back, the top scorer of the 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship in Japan, scoring five times in five minutes, to lift her side to a 6:1 lead. Two of these goals have been open goal shots, but Abbingh has been immense, also courtesy of Emmanuel Mayonnade’s strong defence. And after a meagre EHF EURO 2020, the Netherlands look to be back at their best. However, can Japan improve on this nervous start? One assumes they might.

08:45 JST Hosts Japan enter the fray

Good morning! It’s time! The second day of the handball tournament at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is starting now and we have a six-game card ready to go. The men’s tournament threw off yesterday and all the favourites won their games. Will that also happen today, in the women’s tournament? Well, we will see in the next few hours.

Hosts Japan throw off the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 against reigning world champions, the Netherlands, in a fiery clash, with the Japanese trying to improve on the men’s result, who conceded a painful 30:47 loss against Denmark.

Montenegro will face African champions, Angola, while the group ends with a true blockbuster, as Norway face Republic of Korea in a clash between the top medallists in the history of the competition, with both sides claiming six medals each.

The first game should be an instant classic, with the reigning world champions, the Netherlands, facing hosts Japan. The two sides met three times in official games until now, with the Dutch side taking three wins. Will history repeat itself or will Japan prompt a surprise?

Find out more about Group A at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

If you want to know more about Group A, you can find everything you need on our website. 

Who’s who at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

All the rosters are available here.

How did teams fare in Japan

The teams have travelled to Japan, with players and staff acclimating to the conditions in Tokyo, while also playing several friendly games during the last couple of weeks.