Agencies/Rio de Janeioro
Reigning European champions Germany cruised past Qatar 34-22 to advance to the semi-finals of the Rio Games men’s handball competition yesterday.
The victory for Germany sets up a showdown with Olympic and world champions France in tomorrow’s last four stage. France defeated hosts Brazil 34-27 in the first quarter-final of the evening.
Germany are aiming for a first Olympic medal in handball since winning the silver at the 2004 Games in Athens.
The tone for the match was set early when Germany took a two-goal lead, thanks to Fabian Wiede and Henrik Pekeler, and goalkeeper Andreas Wolff saved the opening shot of Rafael Capote.
Bertrand Roine took a couple more minutes to add Qatar’s first goal, and when Capote succeeded in his next long-range shot they closed the gap to 2-3 just before the clock hit five minutes.
Qatar briefly took a one-goal lead, but two consecutive fast breaks from right wing Tobias Reichmann earned back the advantage (5-4) for the European champions in the 12th minute, and they retained the one-goal lead as Uwe Gensheimer scored a penalty after a two-minute suspension for Alrayes in the 13th.
During Alrayes’ time on the bench, Germany moved in front with two goals in a row from Julius Kuhn, creating a two-goal cushion (8-6) midway through the first half.
Qatar’s Zarko Markovic scored a penalty against Wolff and he then
set up Capote to score off an outstanding jump shot in the 17th to level the scores (8-8).
But from that point onwards the European champions began to create a real difference in the match, with four straight goals from different positions scored over five minutes as Markovic hit the post and Wolff made three consecutive saves.
When Germany hit a 12-8 lead, Qatar coach Valero Rivera called his first time-out, but on this day, his team simply were not on the same level as the European champions.
The only thing that helped Qatar were the saves of Saric, who was on a 31% rate at the end of the first 25 minutes – though as Wolff recorded 41% at the other end and played behind stronger defence, Germany were able to keep their advantage at 13-10 as Gensheimer scored his third goal in the 27th minute.
Even with Pekeler off for two minutes the European side retained the advantage, and at the half-time break the difference stood at four in favour of the Germans.
When the match resumed post the break, Germany wasted little time moving further in front, with Wolff making an impressive save on a penalty against Markovic in the 32nd minute to keep the four-goal difference.
Five minutes into the period Germany had increased their lead to six (20-14), and they kept the same difference with 15 minutes left as Qatar right wing Nasreddine Megdich missed a shot when he attempted to lob past the 193-centremetre tall Wolff (24-18).
As the last 10 minutes of the match began, Qatar’s Bertrand Roine added his second goal to put the score at 19-29, but as Germany were in front by 10 goals it was clear the match was more or less decided.
Wolff was substituted off to bring in Silvio Heinevetter, taking a 41% save rate for the match with him, and Germany easily held on to record a 12-goal victory that booked them a semi-final berth against France.
Earlier, the day’s first quarter-final finished with a seven-goal win for France, who ended the noisy home fans’ hearts by seeing off Brazil.
“Thanks to all the people who came to cheer for us,” said Rio de Janeiro-born left wing Joao Silva after the game. “I wish all this can continue and handball can be seen in Brazil as a sport that can make people happy.”
Brazil started the match slowly while France raced out of the blocks, particularly left wing Michael Guigou, who scored a range of shots to accumulate four of the European side’s first five goals. When he converted a penalty in the sixth France took an early lead at 5-2, before Brazil fought back to decrease the scoreline.
Captain Thiagus Santos caused a turnover and ran a fast break in partnership with Fabio Chiuffa to level the scores 5-5 in the eighth minute, but after that it the reigning world champions never gave the hosts a chance to come back into the game.
“We knew the power of the French team. They are twice Olympic champions and world champions,” added Silva. “We knew we had to stay focused throughout. Little by little we built our game, but in the second half we didn’t had luck with some balls.”
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