Norway and the Netherlands aim to seal quarter-final berths in Group A

29 Jul. 2021

Norway and the Netherlands aim to seal quarter-final berths in 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. The Netherlands claimed a nine-goal win against Angola in the first match, which was followed by Republic of Korea taking their first two points at Tokyo. Now up: Montenegro vs Norway. 

Group A at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women's handball tournament goes into round 3, with another three matches scheduled.

Today's matches:

  • 09:00 JST: Netherlands vs Angola (37:28)
  • 14:15 JST: Japan vs Republic of Korea (24:27)
  • 16:15 JST: Montenegro vs Norway

17:55 JST Norway and the Netherlands progress to the quarter-finals

That was an outstanding second half from Norway, a great performance, which put the Scandinavian side certainly on the path to a medal at Tokyo 2020. And we have our two first qualified teams to the quarter-finals from Group A, Norway and the Netherlands. The reigning world champions and the reigning European champions have six points and they cannot be relegated to the fifth place, irrespective of what happens in the last six matches of the group. Two more quarter-finals berths will be awarded in the next days.

It was also Norway’s 36th win at the Olympic Games, tied with the Republic of Korea for the most ever in the history of the competition.

The third round of Group A is over now, we will move over to Group B, where Hungary will play against ROC at 19:30 JST, while Sweden face France at 21:30 JST.

17:42 JST FINAL WHISTLE Montenegro vs Norway 23:35

Well, it was fun while it lasted. And nobody, not even the biggest Norwegian fans, would have thought the score line would be so unbalanced at the end of the game, after the game was tied at 13:13 at the break. It was a total collapse by Montenegro, who could not stop Norway’s attack in the second half, irrespective of the player shooting at goal.

It was also Norway’s biggest-ever win against Montenegro, breaking the previous record of nine goals, set at Rio 2016, 28:19. Sanna Solberg, Norway’s left wing, really impressed in the second half, scoring six goals, while Henny Reistad and Nora Mork also added seven goals each to lift Norway to a superb 35:23 win. The Norwegian side still do not have the best attack in the competition – the Dutch have scored 112 goals, eight more than Norway – but their potential is unbelievable when everything clicks for them.

Norway jumped to the first place in the standings after this win, with six points and a +33 goal difference, while the Netherlands are second, with the same amount of points and a goal difference of +27. This is where it gets interesting, though. Montenegro are currently third, courtesy of their goal difference, (-4), ahead of the Japan (-11) and the Republic of Korea (-16). But Japan beat Montenegro and Korea beat Japan, therefore Montenegro will definitely need a win to advance. Angola are last, with zero points.

Saturday’s games will offer us further answers regarding the next qualified teams. Montenegro face a must-win game against the Republic of Korea, while Japan face Angola and Norway play for first place in the group against the Netherlands.

It will be a crucial day for Group A, so stay tuned!

17:25 JST Game over for Montenegro

Norway’s back line has really gone the extra mile here, with Stine Oftedal, Nora Mork and Henny Reistad combining for 18 goals, six each, up until this point of the game. It’s not a surprise, considering their squad depth, but it’s worth underlining how quickly Norway turned the game around, scoring as many goals as they did in the whole first half after only 14 minutes in the second one.

The instant impact of fast breaks, converted by Sanna Solberg and Kari Dale at the start of the second half really turned a corner for Norway, as Montenegro’s defence was more tired and had no answer for whatever the reigning European champions were throwing at them. In fact, the Norwegian side improved their attacking efficiency from 50% to 64%, missing only two shots, as Montenegro packed it in after not getting the stops they used to get in the first half. A 10:2 run between the 36th and the 45th minute basically sealed the deal for Norway. Popovic took another time-out, but it’s all over, Norway are boasting a 10-goal lead, 28:18.

Hergeirsson’s side are slowly getting to their best start at the Olympic Games – three wins in three games – since Beijing 2008, when they won a gold medal. And they will be going for the first place after three rounds, needing a win by six goals or more to pass the Netherlands.

17:16 JST Norwegian recipe for winning games

Defensive stop, fast break, goal. This has been the recipe for so many Norwegian wins in the past and this day, it seems to be no different. In the first three minutes and 40 seconds of the second half, Norway recorded already five goals, more than a third of the amount they scored in the first half. Both Sanna Solberg, who replaced Camilla Herrem on the left wing, and Stine Oftedal scored twice, taking the score to 18:15.

Bojana Popovic called a time-out and addressed the lack of discipline of her side, especially in attack, where costly turnovers were of heavy impact. It is also about a better defence for Norway and this is the key of their success: Montenegro hardly get open shots and when they did, usually they missed. With 20 minutes to go, Norway boast a four-goal lead, 21:17, and it’s there game to lose now.

16:53 JST HALF-TIME Montenegro vs Norway 13:13

Popovic’s time-out worked wonders and Montenegro are back ahead, 11:9, while also bringing a two-minute suspension for Norwegian talisman, Nora Mork, the top scorer of her side, with four goals. However, a crucial moment starring Norwegian goalkeeper Sanna Solberg follows. Down two players, due to suspensions, Norway find solace in Solberg’s save against Jelena Despotovic, which helps them relax and then stay close, 11:11, with four minutes to go in the first half.

The main take for this game is Montenegro’s amazing display in defence, which limited Norway, a team that scored 34.5 goals per game in the first two rounds, to only 13 goals in the first half. Moreover, Stine Skogrand and Veronica Kristiansen failed to score from five attempts, while Stine Oftedal herself missed another four shots. It’s been a dismal game for Norwegian standards, with the Scandinavian side in dire need of improvement in the second part.

Yet, somehow, Norway managed to tie the game in the dying seconds of the first half. It’s 13:13, after right wing Marit Jacobsen takes advantage of the space given by Majda Mehmedovic and converts her first shot of the game. Norway ended the half with a 2:0 run that was prompted by a two-minute suspension for Andrea Klikovac.

Everything will be in play in the second half. Norway will need to improve both their attacking efficiency (50%) and their save efficiency (24%) to stand a chance against Montenegro and win their third game in a row at Tokyo 2020.

16:37 JST Hergeirsson turns the game in Norway’s favour with masterclass time-out

Mork is back on the right back position, but it makes no difference. Because Montenegro have an in-form goalkeeper between the posts, who saved fiveof the first 10 shots faced from Norway. Despite winning the last game between the two sides, 28:23, in March, it really is surprising to see Montenegro take an 8:5 lead, with a 4:0 run that frustrated Norway. It seems that, for a reason or another, the Norwegian side are really unable to express under the defensive system deployed by Montenegro. And this Montenegro lost two days ago against Japan, 26:29.

As Norway failed to score for nearly seven minutes, their coach Thorir Hergeirsson caled a time-out to weather the storm. It quickly brought two goals scored by Stine Oftedal and two goals from Nora Mork plus an offensive foul called on Jelena Despotovic. It’s 9:9 after 19 minutes and it’s time for Bojana Popovic to call the time-out. Right now, Montenegro are only hanging on thanks to their superb 82% scoring efficiency, as opposed to Norway’s 56%. It’s uncanny to see, but it is what it is.

16:16 JST Montenegro put pressure on Norway

After a slow start against the strong Norwegian side, Montenegro bounced back. With a great defensive intensity, which was the backbone of their 4:2 run to tie the game at 4:4, the Montenegrin side showed plenty of grit and sheer desire to put the unbeaten Norwegian side under pressure. The 5+1 approach has really troubled the Norwegian backs, which had to fight to look for spaces.

However, after Stine Skogrand’s two-minute suspension, she reverted to a right back role, while Nora Mork plays on the right wing. It also helps in defence, where Mork, who is not the tallest player, is playing on the wing, therefore Norway do not have to make a change between attack and defence. Despite hitting the post three times, Norway are still up by one goal, 5:4, with 10 minutes played.

16:00 JST Familiar faces meet once again in Tokyo

Ready for the last game in Group A? Montenergo and Norway are familiar foes, having met six times in the last 10 years. 2012 was a vintage year for both, with Norway taking the gold at the Olympic Games in London, with a 26:23 win, only for Montenegro to win the EHF EURO final, 34:31, after extra time. Montenegro have moved on from their golden generation, with only two remaining players in the squad, wings Jovanka Radicevic and Majda Mehmedovic, while Bojana Popovic is now the team’s coach.

More recently, the two teams have met in the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Podgorica, when Montenegro took an outstanding 28:23 win, only three months after Norway won the EHF EURO 2020 final against France. This time around, Norway will be more prepared and will try to win their third game in a row at Tokyo 2020.

15:40 JST FINAL WHISTLE Japan vs Republic of Korea 24:27

The Korean side has never lost against an Asian opponent at the Olympic Games since Los Angeles 1984 and had previously won eight last games against Japan. This streak will continue for at least some time, after Korea did not relent under pressure and stopped the comeback attempt mounted by the hosts late in the second half. Japan had clear-cut chances to bring the game back at only two goals, but costly misses helped the Korean side when it mattered most and lifted them to the first win at Tokyo 2020.

Yet Japan could have still saved something from the game, after finally cutting the gap to two goals, 23:25, with five minutes to go. It was Ryu who bailed Korea out from tough positions, including an incoming passive play called, with strong shots from the nine-metre line, as the right back was truly unstoppable in today’s game. The right back finished the game with nine goals, including three scored in the last ten minutes, all of which recorded speeds of more than 80 km/h. Eventually, Korea sealed the win, 27:24, after taking advantage of Japan’s 16 turnovers in the game.

The two Asian sides each stand at two points in the standings, with Japan fourth and the Republic of Korea fifth. The hosts will face Angola on Saturday at 09:00 JST, while the Korean team meet Montenegro at 11:00 JST, in must-win games for each of the two teams.

This also means that neither Norway nor the Netherlands will be mathematically safe of progressing to the quarter-finals, yet they still hold big chances to progress, irrespective of the other results in the group.

15:25 JST Ryu ties Abbingh on the top of the goal scorer standings as Korea head for win

With her sixth goal in this game, Korean right back Ryu Eun Hee has just tied Dutch back Lois Abbingh on the top of the goal scorer standings. Ryu has scored 19 times at Tokyo 2020, a comprehensive performance from the right back who left Paris 92 to play in the Republic of Korea as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be plying her trade at club level for Hungarian powerhouse Gyori Audi ETO KC from this summer on.

Credit to Japan, because they did not pack this in and are constantly trying to hamper Korea’s attacks. But as Mingyeong Lee has started to hit the target more, scoring four times in this second half, it looks like Japan are hardly getting any breaks. With their chances of progressing for the quarter-finals in serious jeopardy, Japan miss an important attack and Korea pounce on the fast break, taking the score to 23:20, with 11 minutes to go.

15:15 JST Early timeouts underline Japan’s struggles

Another great start of the half for the Republic of Korea and another quick time-out called by coach Ulrik Kirkely for Japan, this time after only two minutes and 19 seconds into the second half. Japan were down by three at that moment, 12:15, struggling to find breaches into the opponent’s defence. Without a towering back, they rely on breakthroughs, which duly play into Korea’s hands perfectly. Japan turned the ball over 10 times in 34 minutes, which is too much for a competitive game such as this.

Another save by Kametani on a one-on-one with Ryu prevented Korea to open a five-goal gap, but they are still well in the lead, 18:14, with 20 minutes to go. It will be disappointing for Japan to concede a loss in this game, but they are just not doing enough right now, especially in a bland and predictable attack.

14:51 JST HALF-TIME Japan vs Republic of Korea 11:12

Recent results and the bout of form shown by Japan against Montenegro two days ago made them the favourites coming into this game, but the Republic of Korea really thrived under the mantle of being considered 'underdogs' in this game. That and, most probably, the fact that Japan’s style fit like a glove for the Korean defence, that was overpowered by strong backs both against the Netherlands and Norway in the first two matches.            

A three-goal outburst from Shio Fujii helped Japan to stay in the game, while goalkeeper Sakura Kametani saved nine shots in the first half, five of which came in the last 10 minutes, when Korea had already started putting some goals on the scoreboard, taking a 12:8 lead. Something started to click for Japan then and they finished the game with a 3:1 run, to cut the gap to only one goal, 11:12.

Japan were more efficient (52%) than Korea (50%), had their goalkeeper save more shots, but their turnover ratio has been higher than that of their Asian counterparts. This is still a very open game – will Japan secure their first win in nine games against Korea and boost their chances to reach the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020, the tournament they are hosting?

14:38 JST Japan commit to the attack, but Ryu makes them pay

To help their attack more, coach Dagur Sigurdsson is already using the seven-on-six attack, by substituting the goalkeeper with an outfield player. It really exposes Japan, as they have already converted two empty goal shots, but it looks like the only way they can truly overwhelm the Korean defence right now. Star right back Ryu Eun Hee has already scored three goals for the Republic of Korea, while Japanese-born Mingyeong Lee, the other bright light in the Korean side in the past matches, missed her first two shots.

Japan’s Maharu Kondo is really helping in this game. She scored only three goals in the first two matches, but she matched that tally in only 16 minutes against the Korean side. Yet, the feeling is that, despite Japan taking the lead once, Korea are still in control, thanks to Ryu’s antics, as they lead 8:6 after 20 minutes.

14:28 JST Korean goalkeeper saves six shots in 10 minutes

For a team that conceded 82 goals in the first two games, the Republic of Korea have been playing brilliantly in the first four minutes, stopping Japan in their tracks. This prompted coach Dagur Sigurdsson to call an early time-out after only four minutes.

The time-out had the desired effect for Japan as the two sides are now tied at 3:3 after the first 10 minutes of the game. While goals have not exactly been flowing, the game has an amazing speed, with the two sets of players creating opportunities in every attack.

However, the star of the game has undoubtedly been the Korean goalkeeper, Jinhui Jeong. She saved six of the nine shots she faced, for an excellent 67%, an amazing performance, especially after the Republic of Korea had the worst saving efficiency in the tournament after the first two games (16%). In fact, Jeong already had more than a third of the number of total saves in the first two matches (16), as Japan is clearly struggling to score, despite producing the attacks.

14:00 JST Asian derby to provide exciting battle

Two days ago, the Republic of Korea set a record together with the Netherlands for the most goals scored overall in the Olympic women’s handball tournament, as they conceded a 36:43 loss against the reigning world champions. This time, they are facing a fellow Asian team, hosts Japan, in what shapes up to be another outstanding fast-paced game, with plenty of attack on display for both sides. Japan might have scored only 50 goals in the first two games, but their 29:26 win against Montenegro outlined their potential in attack, as they aim for the second win in the tournament, which could prove crucial for their goal of reaching the quarter-finals.

However, the Korean side won 24 of the 27 mutual games between the two sides, including the last eight games. Yet, this match could be more balanced than the head-to-head record. Tune in at 14:15 JST for one of the most interesting games of the day, a matter of pride for both sides, with the future in the competition hanging in the balance for both sides.

10:30 JST Moving on to Group B…

This was a straightforward win by the Netherlands, who are one of the four teams to stay undefeated up until this point at Tokyo 2020. We will be back with the action from Group A at 14:15 JST, with the Asian derby between Japan and the Republic of Korea.

We are now moving to Group B, where another undefeated side, Brazil, are taking on Spain, who are fresh off a superb win against France. It is a crucial game for both sides, who are eyeing one of the top two places in the group.

10:24 JST FINAL WHISTLE Netherlands vs Angola 37:28

It’s the third win in three games for the Netherlands, who will proceed to the quarter-finals, provided that the Republic of Korea do not win against Japan. Five years ago, at Rio 2016, the Dutch side scored at least 30 goals in three games, a feature that they achieved at Tokyo 2020 in their first three matches. They really boast the best attack in the competition so far, having scored 112 times until now, an average of 37,3 scored goals per game. Today, they won once again by a clear margin, leaving Angola empty-handed, 37:28.

Their attack has been so good because everybody is chiming in, with all their outfield players scoring until now in the first three games. But there are players who are standing out in the scorers list, with Lois Abbingh (19 goals) or Bo van Wetering (13 goals) leading the pack. Are the Dutch the real deal? This will probably be seen on Saturday, when they meet Norway in a game that should decide the winner of the group.

Meanwhile, Angola lost their third game in a row and will face a tough fight to proceed to the quarter-finals. The games against the European opponents are now done, but the matches against Japan and the Republic of Korea will be decisive. Anything else than two wins and they will leave the competition after the group phase, after progressing to the quarter-finals at Rio 2016.

10:14 JST Abbingh, the new top scorer at Tokyo 2020 for now

Dutch left back Lois Abbingh, the top scorer of the 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship, has just climbed to the provisional first place in the standings at Tokyo 2020, after scoring six goals for the Netherlands in this game. She scored 19 goals in the first three games, three more than Montenegro’s Jovanka Radicevic, who has yet to play her third game, facing Norway at 16:15 JST.

Right now, the Dutch cannot lose this game, leading 29:23 with nine minutes to go. It will be the third game in a row, probably, that they score at least 30 goals.

10:04 JST Three out of three for the Netherlands?

It is difficult to contain the Dutch attack, the best in the competition judging by the number of goals scored in the first two matches, and Angola are feeling it on a first-hand basis. The African side are trying hard to keep the pace and have deployed a seven-on-six attack, by substituting their goalkeeper with an outfield player in attack. The tactic usually works, but when the ball is turned over, the Dutch side are scoring in the open goal at free will.

After 42 minutes, the game seems to be over. The Netherlands are cruising, taking a 25:18 lead, the biggest so far in the game. Ten outfield players have scored already at least one goal, with centre back Nycke Groot and left wing Merel Freriks failing to score up until this point.

Angola’s attack has dipped and it looks like they have no other solution than to pass it to back Isabel Guialo and hopes she scores. Guialo has recorded six goals so far, but has also missed eight shots already.

09:39 JST HALF-TIME Netherlands vs Angola 17:15

Wow, what a mistake by Angola to close out the first half. They had the chance to create a last attack, with 10 seconds to go, but their goalkeeper, Helena Sousa, just passed the ball to the other shot stopper, Tess Wester, who passed it quickly in attack, with Laura van der Heijden scoring the last goal of the half.

It could have been 16:16, instead the Dutch side are leading 17:15. Yet, the game is far more competitive than they could have thought. Indeed, they led by as many as five goals, but the Angolan side really came back through sheer will and a superb athletic team, who dominated physically in attack. Their undoing was the attacking side, which converted only 52% of their shots. On the other side, the Dutch look in control, but this could get tricky if they relish it just a bit, with Angola ready to take advantage.

09:26 JST Netherlands in control

They seriously look like they are on a mission after missing out on a medal at Rio 2016, when they finished fourth. Eight months after a weak EHF EURO 2020, when they finished sixth, the Netherlands are dazzling with their speed and pacy attacks, while also saving something for defence, where goalkeeper Tess Wester is one of the best goalkeepers in the Olympic tournament so far.

Bo van Wetering continued her superb outing today, scoring four times, while backs Lois Abbingh and Kelly Dulfer added three goals each. It was 13:8, but right now, Angola shaved two goals of that deficit, to close the gap, 13:10, with ten minutes to go in the first half.

09:12 JST Superb run helps Angola tie the game after slow start

A 5:2 outburst in the first five minutes to start the game painted another clear picture, at least in the start of the game: the Dutch side were going to cruise to another win, as their fast breaks were unstoppable, after winning some balls in the defence. Yet their energy and precision have dipped, releasing a 3:0 run from Angola to tie the game after nine minutes, 5:5.

There have been mistakes from both sides, especially costly turnovers from the Dutch side, for whom back Lois Abbingh and wing Bo van Wetering scored two goals each. However, it was the Dutch turnovers that really let Angola tie the game, as the Angolan goalkeepers did not save a shot in the first 10 minutes.

09:00 JST The Netherlands start as huge favourites

Ready for a new action-packed day of handball? Here we go! The first match pits the reigning world champions, the Netherlands, against the African champions, Angola. The Dutch side are huge favourites, having already won the first two games and boasting the best attack of the competition, with 76 goals scored in the first two games. On the other side, Angola lost their first two matches. Can they take anything out of this one?

08:45 JST Round 3 is about to begin with crucial matches ahead

Winning their games in round 3 of the Tokyo 2020 women’s handball tournament can mean safe passage to the quarter-finals for European powerhouses Norway and the Netherlands.

Both teams have won their first two games and another win could mean that they are through, provided the Republic of Korea and Angola do not win today.

Norway have the second best attack and the best defence in the competition and can record their best start at the Olympic Games since Beijing 2008 with a win. In that tournament, they did not drop a game and won the gold medal.

The Netherlands have already achieved their best start in the competition and scored 43 goals in the win against Korea two days ago. They are huge favourites against Angola, as they hit their best form in the start of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Japan have historically been second fiddle to the Republic of Korea, but playing at home can give them newfound energy. A win could put them in a good position to achieve safe passage to the quarter-finals, in a crucial game for both sides.

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

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