Eight European teams fight for six London ticketsArticle
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Final Olympic Qualification Tournaments take place in France, Spain and Denmark this weekend.

Eight European teams fight for six London tickets

Eight teams from Europe, two from Pan America and one each from Asia and Africa start face the final part of their bid to reach the Olympics next weekend  - and it is the Europeans who are the clear favourites for those tickets to London.2012 logo-200

The six remaining places of the 24 who will compete at the 2012 London Olympics handball tournament will be decided at events in France, Spain and Denmark from Friday to Sunday.

The two best ranked teams from each of those tournaments in Lyon, Guadalajara and Aalborg will go to the 2012 Olympic Games. The draw for the Preliminary Rounds will take place in London at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on Wednesday, 30 May.

Six participants (Great Britain, Norway, Brazil, Angola, Korea and Sweden) for the Women’s Tournament are already known after the 2011 World Championship in Brazil and the continental qualification tournaments. After their qualification over the Easter weekend the men’s tournament is completed with nine teams from Europe: France, Great Britain, Denmark, Spain, Serbia, Sweden, Hungary, Croatia and Iceland.

Qualification Tournament 1 (in Lyon, France):

France will face Romania, Montenegro and Japan in Palais des Sports de Gerland in Lyon in the toughest of all the groups. Montenegro is nearly identical to the club team of Buducnost Podgorica, which won the EHF Champions League two weeks ago.

The Romanians are traditionally strong and qualified for this tournament as bronze medallists in the 2010 European Championship. But both main French contenders had not been satisfied with the way they played at the World Championship in Brazil, when both missed the quarter finals. In contrast, Japan was one of the biggest surprises as they nearly eliminated Denmark in the last eight.

Japan lost the continental Olympics qualification by a whisker against Korea, too. But France – the Silver medallist of the 2011 World Championship in Brazil – will start as favourites in this group, although they have to replace their star Allison Pineau after a rupture of the crucial ligament picked up in the semi-final in Sao Paulo. On the other hand Romania look set to be without Cristina Neagu – the successor of Pineau as World Handball Player of the year – due to a shoulder injury.

Match schedule:

25 May 2012:
16.45 hrs: Montenegro vs. Japan
19.00 hrs: France vs. Romania

26 May 2012:
14.45 hrs: Romania vs. Montenegro
17.00 hrs: Japan vs. France

27 May 2012:
14.15 hrs: Romania vs. Japan
16.30 hrs: France vs. Montenegro

Qualification Tournament 2 (in Guadalajara, Spain):

Like in Lyon, three European teams are chasing Olympic places here. The host, who won their first ever medal at a women’s World Championship with bronze in Brazil, face the Croats and the Dutch in this tournament, in which Argentina is the great underdog. Spain played a brilliant tournament in Brazil, eliminating the host in a thrilling quarter-final followed by a dominant bronze medal match against Denmark.

Counting on top goalkeeper Silvia Navarro or the genius playmaker Martha Mangue, the Iberians seem to be the favourite on home ground. But over the years the Croatian women have improved, and were ranked seventh in Brazil and beat Denmark twice in the qualification for EHF EURO 2012. The Netherlands were the last to book their tickets for the Olympics qualification – and the Dutch had to thank Angola for the chance to qualify for London now.

The young team will be the host of the EHF EURO in December – and to reach London would be a great way to promote their cause. Argentina clearly lost the final of the Pan American qualification, and missed the eight finals of the World Championship even clearer.

Match schedule:

25 May 2012:
10.45 hrs: Croatia vs. Netherlands
13.00 hrs: Spain vs. Argentina

26 May 2012:
10.45 hrs: Argentina vs. Croatia
13.00 hrs: Netherlands vs. Spain

27 May 2012:
10.15 hrs: Argentina vs. Netherlands
12.30 hrs: Spain vs. Croatia

Tournament 3 (in Aalborg, Denmark):

In contrast to the tournaments 1 and 2 the roles in Aalborg seem to be clearly marked: Denmark – who finished fourth in Brazil – and Russia – four times World Champion and disappointingly ranked sixth in Sao Paolo – are supposed to be the clear favourites against Tunisia and the Dominican Republic. The Northern Africans played some good matches in Brazil, but missed out on reaching the last eight after defeat against Japan, while the Caribbean side did not even qualify for the World Championship.

Match schedule:

25 May 2012:
18.15 hrs: Russia vs. Dominican Republic
20.15 hrs: Denmark vs. Tunisia

26 May 2012:
18.45 hrs: Russia vs. Tunisia
20.45 hrs: Denmark vs. Croatia

27 May 2012:
18.15 hrs: Tunisia vs. Dominican Republic
20.15 hrs: Denmark vs. Russia

All data concerning playing time have to be accepted under reserve and may be changed at any time. All times are local times. 

With regard to the IHF regulations, the seeding list for the Preliminary Round draw on 30 May in London is as follows:

Pot 1: Norway; ranked first in the Qualification Tournament in Lyon

Pot 2: first ranked team of Qualification Tournament in Guadalajara; first ranked team of Qualification Tournament in Aalborg

Pot 3: second ranked team of Qualification Tournament in Guadalajara; second ranked team of Qualification Tournament in Aalborg

Pot 4: Great Britain; second ranked team of Qualification Tournament in Lyon

Pot 5: Sweden; Brazil

Pot 6: Angola; Korea

TEXT: Björn Pazen