The final six men’s handball teams have booked their spot to the 2020 Olympics after their performances at the Olympic Qualification Tournaments. Three tournaments were held concurrently where four teams played a round robin. The top two teams from each tournament qualified to the games. The tournaments were held from March 12th to March 14th 2021.
The first tournament was hosted by Podgorica, Montenegro who stepped in after Norway withdrew. The 2019 World Championship silver medalist Norway was still able to win the group as they defeated Brazil (32-20), Chile (38-23) and South Korea (44-31).
Brazil recovered from their first day loss to post wins over South Korea (30-24) and Chile (26-24), though the team was down 17-11 against the latter after the first half. South Korea finished third as they won 36-35 over Chile on the first day thanks to building a nine-point lead and preventing a feverous comeback by the Chilean team.
This will be Norway’s second appearance in the men’s tournament at the Olympics with the first being back in 1972 while for Brazil this will be their sixth tournament where they last competed in Rio as hosts.
The second tournament was hosted by Montpellier, France. The first day began with Portugal securing a 34-27 victory over Tunisia while the second match between France and Croatia saw the latter build up a five-point lead early into the second half, but France persevered and came back at the halfway point only to build their own lead to win 30-26.
Croatia had another suspenseful match on the second day where they fell behind by six goals to Portugal early in the second half. They spent the rest of the match catching up to win 25-24 thanks to a goal by Luka Cindric with 20 seconds remaining. France won their match 40-29 against Tunisia.
The final set of matches saw another close event involving Croatia as they went even with Tunisia for most of the first half. Croatia was able to take control of the match in the second half and put some distance against Tunisia to win 30-27 and finish with two victories.
The final match of the group between France and Portugal saw the former jump up to a six-point lead only for Portugal to close the gap down to a 1 goal French lead at the end of the half. The second half was a close affair though Portugal barely took possession of the lead. Going into the final minutes France held a three-goal lead. Portugal however would pull off a miraculous comeback including scoring the game winning goal during the final two seconds to win the match 29-28. This caused a three-way tie with Croatia, France and Portugal finishing with four points. Going by goal differential between the tied teams, France and Portugal qualified to the Olympics, leaving Croatia as the odd team out.
This will be France’s eighth Olympics in a row. They also won three medals over the past three games (gold in 2008 and 2012 and silver in 2016). Portugal on the other hand will be making their handball Olympic debut.
The third tournament was hosted by Berlin, Germany. The first match of the tournament between Germany and Sweden was intense. In the first half, Germany was never behind, but Sweden always kept it close with the half ending 14-13 German lead. The second half it was Sweden’s turn to never fully relinquish the lead, but never having full control of the match. A goal in the final two seconds by Germany’s Marcel Schiller allowed the match to end with a draw. In the other match Slovenia won over Algeria 36-28.
Germany and Sweden showed they were on another level against their competitors on the second day as they defeated Slovenia (36-27) and Algeria (36-25) respectively. The pair would clinch Olympic qualification on the final day with Germany defeating Algeria 34-26 and Sweden winning over Slovenia 32-25. Sweden finished first overall thanks to a better goal differential.
Sweden has won four silvers in its Olympic history with the most recent one being in 2012. Germany has also won four medals and is the current defending bronze medalist.
This is the final opportunity for nations to qualify in the men’s handball tournament. The final women’s teams are set to be decided at their own Olympic Qualification Tournament to be held next weekend.