European powerhouses eye second win in a row

27 Jul. 2021

European powerhouses eye second win in a row

Running updates of Tokyo 2020 women's Group A – follow the action of the Olympic handball tournament live and stay always up-to-date. In the first match of the day, hosts Japan shocked Montenegro and took the win, followed by a clear win from the Netherlands against Republic of Korea and the day concluded with a dominant win for Norway against Angola, 30:21.

It's round two of Group A at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women's handball tournament, with another three intercontinental clashes ahead.

Today's matches:

  • 09:00 JST: Japan vs Montenegro (29:26)
  • 16:15 JST: Republic of Korea vs Netherlands (36:43)
  • 19:30 JST: Angola vs Norway (21:30)


21:00 JST FINAL WHISTLE Angola vs Norway 21:30

It was a very tight game in the first quarter of the game, but once Norway took the lead they stayed in control until the end.

Angola attacked mostly through the centre, with captain Isabel Guialo scoring six goals and line player Albertina Kassoma contributing another half a dozen. But they never used their wings. Incredibly, they only attempted one shot from that position and failed.

On the opposite side, left wing Sanna Solberg was Norway’s top scorer with seven goals, Nora Mork was 100% effective with the five 7-metre throws she took and Veronica Kristiansen ended with a six-goal tally.

All in all, with a very solid performance the Rio 2016 bronze medallists record their second win at Tokyo 2020 and sit at the top of Group A.

20:40 JST Norway extend the edge to six goals

“Let’s go, let’s go, with courage!” shouts Angola coach Filipe Cruz to keep his team motivated. They are down 18:25 versus Norway in the 49th minute. Their goalkeepers are still far from their best form — only three saves between the two of them and a low 11% save percentage.

Norway rotate their athletes and everyone are responding now. Sanna Solberg brings offensive solutions with four goals from the left wing.

20:10 JST HALF-TIME Angola 10:15 Norway

Kari Brattset completed a successful fast break to equalise at 6:6 in the 16th minute. That was the turning point for the Scandinavian side in the first half as they seemed to have found their performance afterwards.

Veronica Kristiansen exhibited her shooting skills as she netted all four of her attempts and helped Norway take the lead and create a five-goal gap into the half-time break. The difference between the two teams can also be found in the keepers save rate; 6% for Teresa Almeida and Helena Sousa (only one save out of 16 shots) versus 38% for Katrine Lunde (6 saves from 16 throws).

The score is 15:10 with the European champions leading the African champions in Group A.

19:50 JST Strong first minutes for Angola versus Norway

Four goals and one assist for captain Isabel Guialo has propelled Angola to a 6:5 lead in the 15th minute. It’s a smart beginning for the African side.

Norway still don’t find comfort in the game, with half of their goals coming from 7-metre throws scored by Nora Mork.

19:20 JST Angola are prepared to challenge Rio 2016 bronze medallists Norway and get their first points in Tokyo

Norway sit on two points at these Olympic Games since beating the Republic of Korea 39:27 in their first match, while Angola didn't have the best start and lost to Montenegro 22:33.

Both teams met at Rio 2016, with a 30:20 victory for the Scandinavians, who also held the upper hand at their 2019 IHF Women's World Championship encounter (30:24). But the Angolans don't look back. It's a new day – this is handball and anything can happen.


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18:05 JST Abbingh and Ryu jump to the second place in the top scorer standings

What a superb attacking performance by both sides in the second game of Group A. The Netherlands truly impressed, especially by putting all of their outfield players on the scoresheet, as Emmanuel Mayonnade shared the playing time perfectly between his players.

With her six-goals, Lois Abbingh claimed second place of the top scorer standings, with 13 goals in two games, three less than leader Jovanka Radicevic. Korea’s Ryu Eun Hee, who added 10 today, tied Abbingh for second, while Mingyeong Lee is third, with 12 goals.

We’ll take a break before Norway face Angola in the last game of the group at 19:15 JST.



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17:40 JST FINAL WHISTLE Republic of Korea vs the Netherlands 36:43

There was no doubt about the winners of the game, once the Netherlands really got into a groove in attack. With the Korean side failing to stop any of the attacks and conceding 39 goals or more for the second time in as many games at Tokyo 2020, the Dutch side marched on until the end to seal a 43:36 win.

The result broke the record for the largest-ever number of goals scored in the Olympic Games women's handball tournament, being the ninth game in history to surpass the 70-goal mark. Four of those games included the Republic of Korea playing, a testament to their attacking-minded game plan each and every time they take the court.

The previous record was set at Rio 2016, when Norway and Russia went to extra-time, with the future Olympic champions winning the semi-final by the slightest of margins, 38:37, amassing 75 goals. This game featured 79 goals, four more than the previous record.

But that’s not all! The Netherlands were close to breaking the record for the largest number of goals scored in a match at the Olympic Games, held since Sydney 2000 by Austria, who took a 45:26 win against Brazil. The Dutch stopped short of that by only two goals.

The Dutch side are now first in the standings, after two clear wins against Asian counterparts Japan and the Republic of Korea, boasting four points, with a goal difference of +18. On the other side, the Korean team are last, with zero points, after conceding 82 goals in the first two games.

On Thursday, the Republic of Korea will look for their first win against hosts Japan, in a do-or-die game for them, while the Netherlands take on Angola, looking to improve their winning record. 

17:24 JST Dutch outburst sees them break record with 12 minutes to go

And the goal scoring record is broken for the Dutch side now. They had previously scored 34 times in a loss against Russia at Rio 2016, but with 10 minutes to go, Emmanuel Mayonnade’s side beat that performance without any problem at all. Particularly more interesting is that no Dutch player scored more than four goals up until this point, with Lois Abbingh, Danick Snelder, Kelly Dulfer, Inger Smits, Martine Smeets and Angela Malestein scoring four goals each.

But their scoring galore has been also fueled by the lack of saves from the Korean goalkeepers. A problem in recent history, this has been exacerbated at Tokyo 2020. While in the match against Norway, Hui Ju saved 13 shots, for a 25% saving efficiency, Korea’s two goalkeepers saved only three shots between them up until this point. Their efficiency? A meagre 8%. The Netherlands are cruising now and it’s not a question about the winner anymore, with the Dutch leading 34:28 with 12 minutes to go. 

17:15 JST The Netherlands are heading to a record

The Dutch side are heading to their second win in a row at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. They look totally in control, despite the Republic of Korea throwing everything they have at the Dutch defence. It’s basically Ryu versus the world now, as the right back, who signed for Hungarian club Gyori ETO Audi KC this summer, scored three of Korea’s five goals in the second half until the 39th minute. She has been everywhere on the court, scoring and dishing assists, dumbfounding the Dutch defence at times.

But it is not enough. The Netherlands are constantly finding open shots, with the Korean passivity in the defence and the lack of saves by the goalkeepers really hurting the Asian side. It’s 28:22 for the Dutch side, who are heading to a new team scoring record at the Olympic Games.

16:50 JST HALF-TIME Republic of Korea vs Netherlands 15:19

A time-out called by coach Jae Won Kang was due to rehash Korea’s hopes, after a drop in the level, that saw misses from Ryu and Lee. But with Wester once again superb between the goal posts, the Dutch side punished their opponent’s mistakes, finishing the first half with an 8:4 run in the last 10 minutes.

Surprisingly, it was not Abbingh or Groot leading the way for the Netherlands, partially because Emmanuel Mayonnade understood that if you want to beat the Republic of Korea, you have to play as a team, deploy a collective effort and surprise them from all areas of the court. Indeed, the Netherlands did just that, with all the 12 outfield players scoring at least one goal.

It was Danick Snelder who led the way, with four goals, in her 190th international match for the Dutch side, as the line player was instrumental in the Netherlands’ building a four-goal advantage at the break, 19:15. Once again, the defence was the main undoing for the Republic of Korea. The Asian side conceded 58 goals in 90 minutes until this point at Tokyo 2020, by far the worst mark in the tournament. By comparison, Japan conceded the same amount of goals in two matches.

16:36 JST Lee and Ryu steal the show

Tess Wester has just entered beast mode! The Dutch goalkeeper saved three shots in a row and her team duly took advantage in attack, by deploying a 3:0 run to create the second two-goal advantage in the game, 11:9. But Lee is also unstoppable, having scored six goals until the 20th minute, to keep the Republic of Korea in the game.

It’s anybody’s guess how this game will unfold, but one thing is certain: the Korean side look certainly better than against Norway, while the Netherlands are struggling to contain Lee and right back Ryu Eun Hee, who scored three goals in the first 20 minutes.

It’s still tied after 20 minutes, 11:11.

16:28 JST 14 goals scored in 10 minutes in pacy start

Very, very fast start to this clash, with the Korean team deploying their usual dazzling attack. By the fifth minute, there were already nine goals scored, with the defences constantly exposed.

Yet, this time around, Korea sticks around longer, after being totally outplayed by Norway. It looks like the Asian team learnt a thing or two about paying more attention to the game and not letting it slip away.

As both goalkeepers made only one save each, it’s now 7:7 after 11 minutes, with Korean back Mingyeong Lee leading the way with four goals. Fun fact: Lee was born in Japan and is currently playing in the Japanese league.

16:05 JST Back in Group A with a fiery clash

We are back in Group A of the women’s tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and two teams heading in opposite directions are facing off on the Yoyogi National Stadium court. The Netherlands have won their first game against Japan and are now facing the other Asian team in the competition, while the Republic of Korea have wilted against Norway.

They truly are an ambitious team, however, so this could change today, as they are also playing for their future in the competition, as another loss might prove devastating, especially after Japan won their game against Montenegro this morning.

The two sides also met five years ago, at Rio 2016, with the game ending in a draw, 32:32. Yet the Korean side hold the head-to-head record, with three wins.

11:20 JST Quotes after Japan's win

Sakura Kametani, Japan goalkeeper

On how the first win feels: “It’s very, very good, because since the World Championship in Kumamoto we only played two matches in 19 months before we met the Netherlands. It’s always difficult compared to the European teams – who have played European championship and where most of the players played until June in the league – to know where we stand. After the Netherlands, [where] we came more into it, but we didn’t have the best start to the game, so today we wanted really to fight. Before, we knew that we can match Montenegro good and today we fought 60 minutes and we were just ready. It means so much for many of the players – you can see that when they cry, and we just have to continue to play.”

On the key to the turnaround after trailing early on: “Most European teams are cynical and that is what we have to bring into our team also. We have to fight for each ball and we have to be smart in attack; not do too many technical mistakes, and at least never give up.”

On her own game, with 20 saves: “I’m very happy. I usually play in Europe and it’s not the same to come into the national team because we don’t play the same defence as I’m used to. I also have been away since the World Championship, and it’s not ideal for me to be so long away either. But now, in the beginning, OK I just needed to use a little bit of time and then I found a confidence in me and was more relaxed. I’m just very aggressive and I just wanted to win.”

On the meaning of the Olympics for the team: “It’s still special and it means a lot to all of us. But of course, it’s a little bit ambivalent too because for me I wish there was an audience and I wish my family could see me playing my first Olympics, but we just have to make the best out of it and push ourselves.”

On what this win and Japan’s participation will do for women’s handball in Japan: “I hope this will inspire other handball players. But at the same time, the Japanese handball structure is not the same as in Europe, with the clubs from the young ages. There are more districts and you have to find a region where they have handball. But I hope more people will start with handball and see how fun it is.”  


11:10 JST How the standings look before we move on to Group B

In December 2017, Japan won their first game against a European opponent at the IHF Women’s World Championship, 29:28 against Montenegro. They just repeated this feature at Tokyo 2020, securing the first win against an European side at the Olympic Games! This time around, it was by a clearer margin, after dominating the second half, leading by as many as five goals.

Right now, the standings in Group A are led by Norway (+12 goal difference), the Netherlands (+11), Montenegro (+8) and Japan (-8), who all have two points. Angola and the Republic of Korea are the last two teams in the group with zero points. We'll take a break from Group A, but we'll see you soon!

10:34 JST FINAL WHISTLE Japan vs Montenegro 29:26

Down by four in the first half, it looked like game over for Japan against a spirited Montenegrin side. But if there’s one thing that the Japanese side know to do it is not giving up. At all. No matter the conditions. They did just that and Montenegro are now standing shell-shocked on the court, not believing a thing that just happened. This is the biggest surprise at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games up until this point!

To pull off a surprise like this, you need some key ingredients: a world-class goalkeeper, some good attacking play and an inability to change things in attack from the opponent. All three boxes were checked this morning in Tokyo. Sakura Kametani had an outstanding performance, a career-best 20 saves for a 43% saving efficiency, that frustrated even the most experienced Montenegrin players, like Jovanka Radicevic and Majda Mehmedovic. Adding Ayaka Ikehara’s perfect game, six goals from six shots, and Montenegro’s old-style attack – it was the perfect storm for Japan, who secured a historic 29:26 win against Montenegro.

It is Japan’s only second win ever at the Olympic Games, with the previous one coming at Montreal 1976, when the Japanese side secured a 15:14 win against hosts Canada. This, of course, is a hugely more prestigious win and it really plays well into the Japanese hands, as they see their chances of progression to the quarter-finals boosted.

On Thursday, Japan will face the Republic of Korea, in a 100% Asian derby, while Montenegro are facing the toughest challenge in the group, playing against Norway.

10:20 JST Japan’s symbol on display on the handball court

That is rarely seen in handball, but Japan are now down three players with suspensions, after Mayuko Ishitate tried to save an open-goal shot from Tatiana Brnovic, but fell into the goal area prior battling the ball away. However, Montenegro cannot take advantage of it, with their own suspensions woes coming into the fray. Japan navigated that tough period in amazing fashion, like an experienced side, not a team that is present at the Olympic Games for only the second time in history.

What a surprise would this be! The first loss of an European side against a non-European one at these Olympics? Japan take a time-out and this time around, coach Bojana Popovic lets her players do the talking in the huddle. Did it help? On a first look, not really. Japan can be dazzling at times, they can really disguise well what they are doing with fast passes. But Montenegro are throwing everything at this game, substituting the goalkeeper with an outfield player in the attacks, risking it all. And sometimes it backfires, with goalkeeper Sakura Kametani, whose first name is the symbol of Japan, the cherry flower, rounding up her outstanding game with a converted open-goal shot.

With 10 minutes to go, Japan are still leading, 25:20.

10:08 JST Popovic heads a wake-up call for Montenegro

More and more turnovers now from both sides, but it looks like Japan are getting closer and closer to their second win ever at the Olympic Games. Coach Ulrik Kirkely is working hard to keep the excitement in check on the bench, as the game is far from over. And sure enough, once Japan jumped to a 18:14 lead, Yuki Tanabe concedes a two-minute suspension for a foul. Yet, Montenegro simply cannot find their way to a goal, with Sakura Kametani registering her 11th save in the game. The percentages are unwitty: 44% saving efficiency for Japan, as opposed to 10% for Montenegro. There is the difference!

Montenegro have entered a downward spiral and they really need a time-out from coach Bojana Popovic to stop the rut. Indeed, she calls it in the 36th minute and heads a wake-up call that looked to have the desired effect up until Majda Mehmedovic shoots a fast break directly into Kametani’s hands. There are 20 minutes left and Japan are leading, 20:16, but Djurdjina Jaukovic just caused two suspensions in 15 seconds, as she was harshly fouled by Ikehara and Sunami.

09:42 JST HALF-TIME Japan vs Montenegro 14:13

This half has been a turnover-galore one, with the two sides combining for 18 lost attacks via a technical mistake. And, yes, it has not been pretty. Montenegro remind a little of the team in the first half against Angola, when they really had trouble extending the lead they took early. In the second half, the African side collapsed entirely, both mentally and physically. Will Japan follow suit? At least from a physical standpoint, they will probably not, as Ulrik Kirkely made a slew of changes in the second half against the Netherlands, resting his starters, as the game was out of reach.

Unfortuantely, Japan lost Yui Sunami, due to an ankle injury, after colliding with Djurdjina Jaukovic. But that did not deter the Japanese side, rather even motivated them. Powered by Ayaka Ikehara, who plays for the Danish club Odense and who scored four goals, Japan tied the game at 11:11 after a 5:1 run, as Montenegro failed to score for more than six minutes. And they even took the lead at the break, 14:13, letting the Montenegrin side dumbfounded.

The main difference? Surely, the goalkeepers. Sakura Kametani saved seven shots, for a 37% saving efficiency, while the Montenegrin goalkeepers, Marina Rajcic and Ljubica Nenezic, combined for two saves and 13% efficiency. Moreover, Montenegro only scored three goals in the last 15 minutes and 32 seconds of the first half, as Radicevic failed to score more than the two goals she had in the first six minutes.

It is going to be difficult for Montenegro, with Japan developing this kind of rhythm.

09:26 JST Can Japan out-smart Montenegro?

A two-minute suspension for Shiori Nagata was Japan’s undoing in this first half and, by the looks of it, in this game. The Japanese defence collapsed entirely in the next minutes, prompting Montenegro to embark on a 4:0 run, that helped them open a 10:6 lead. This looks like a totally different Montenegrin side than in the previous years, when they had trouble scoring. It’s true, they played against non-European sides in the first two games, but they really found a new gear, a new dimension to their attack.    

Japan are not a team to give up easily, though, and their goalkeeper, Sakura Kametani, just saved two shots in a row to bring back her side in contention. However, the hosts do not have that know-how to really exert pressure on the opponents. Yet, they still are in with a chance, being down 9:11 after 19 minutes, with Majda Mehmedovic serving a two-minute suspension.

09:15 JST Montenegro boast a frail lead

Oh, dear! Japan are really getting outmuscled once again here by a strong European side and they have little answer, especially in defence. All passes that go through to Tatiana Brnovic, Montenegro’s line player, are putting a strain on the Japanese defence, which cannot stop her.

Moreover, Japan just had too many players on the court, paying little attention to a change when they lost the ball in attack, therefore earning a second two-minute suspension in the space of less than a minute. But they defended brilliantly, exiting that tough position, only to miss a one-on-one shot with the Montenegrin goalkeeper.

Meanwhile, Jovanka Radicevic is at her best again, converting two penalties, to take Montenegro to a 5:3 lead after 10 minutes. The European side are dominating, but the feeling is that they could have scored more, as the five turnovers they committed hampered them.

08:55 JST Can Japan win once again against Montenegro?

It is early morning in Japan, but the hosts are ready to get on the court and face Montenegro. This is your typical Japanese side, playing very fast, dazzling handball at times, a tactic which they deployed successfully at the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championship, when they won their first-ever game against an European side, 29:28 against Montenegro.

The Montenegrin side will probably be aware of the challenge and try to win their second game in a row at Tokyo 2020, after a clear win against Angola (33:22). Jovanka Radicevic had a superb game, scoring 13 times two days ago, and she will hope to repeat that performance today.

08:45 JST Ready for more handball?

The fourth day of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 handball tournament is about to start, with the three European powerhouses that won their first games in Group A looking to build upon their success from the first round.

Probably the most dominating side in the women’s handball tournament was Norway, who will now face Angola, a team against which they won all the eight games they played, including three at the Olympic Games.

Reigning world champions, the Netherlands, will be looking for their second win in a row, when they face the Republic of Korea, while Montenegro had already improved from Rio 2016, when they conceded five losses in five games. The Montenegrin side face a challenge from hosts Japan, who will look to bounce back after their painful loss against the Dutch side.

You can find out more about Group A by clicking here. 

All the latest info regarding statistics and standings can be found on our page dedicated to the women’s handball tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.