Norway and France out, Serbia and Poland go aheadArticle
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ROUND REVIEW: With both finalists of the 2011 edition eliminated, there were some major surprises in the quarter-finals of the Women's World Championship 2013 in Serbia. The hosts, Denmark, Poland and Brazil will now fight for the medals

Norway and France out, Serbia and Poland go ahead

Two sensations, one world record, and three European teams that reached the next stage: These were the ingredients of four thrilling quarter-finals at the Women’s World Championship in Serbia.

Record EHF EURO champions and defending world and Olympic champions, Norway, missed their first semi-final of a major tournament since 2005 after losing to hosts Serbia, who were pushed by the new world record attendance for women’s handball matches of 15,923 spectators.

But the biggest surprise package in the semi-finals are Poland. They eliminated former world champion and 2011 World Championship runners-up France.

Denmark (against Germany) and Brazil (against Hungary) also won their respective quarter-finals in Novi Sad and Belgrade.

Serbia vs. Poland (18:00 hrs. local time) and Denmark vs. Brazil (20:45 hrs. local time) are the fixtures for the semi-finals on Friday (20 December).

Three Danish coaches are part of those matches: Denmark's Jan Pytlick, Poland's Kim Rasmussen and Morten Soubak, whose Brazilian team accounts for the only non-European semi-finalists.

Brazil – Hungary 33:31 (12:11, 26:26, 29:29) after double extra-time

After crying bitter tears in Sao Paolo (2011) and London (2012) following highly close eliminations in quarter-finals of World Championships and Olympic Games, Brazil made it to a semi-final of a major international tournament for the first time.

But it needed 80 thrilling minutes until they had clinched their berth. Hungary were on eye level until the end of the second extra time, but eventually ten goals of Alexandra Nascimento decided this thriller.

"This is a historic day for women’s handball in Brazil. For the first time ever a team from America take part at a final round of a big tournament," said line player Daniela Piedade, who plays for Slovenian side Krim Ljubljana.

Brazil started brilliantly and took an early 7:2 lead, before the EHF EURO 2012 bronze medallists improved and closed the gap. What followed was a match on the edge with constantly changing leads.

At one stage Hungary were on the winners' track, then the roller coaster changed its direction again.

After 60 minutes the score stood at 26:26, after 70 minutes the result was 29:29, then Hungary lost all their power in the second extra-time.

Nascimento's tenth goal followed by the first strike of Mayara Moura to make it 32:30 paved Brazil's way to the semi-final. 

Denmark – Germany 31:28 (17:17)

By beating Germany, Denmark made it to a World Championship semi-final for the eighth time in history. Germany lost their first of seven matches and finally rank only seventh overall despite only one defeat.

Like the other quarter-finals this match was also completely equal. Backed by 12 goals of Susann Müller (leader of the top scorer ranking with 62 goals) Germany first levelled the Danish lead and then even wennt away 24:22 at the start of the crucial stage of the match.

But Denmark stroke back, leveled the match at 26:26 and increased their lead in the last two minutes.

"I am very satisfied. Both teams had problems in defence, but we managed to play well in attack. In the second half our defence was better than  Germany's. Maybe that was the main reason why we were successful today," said Danish coach Jan Pytlick.

Poland – France 22:21 (11:8)

For the first time a Polish women’s handball team has made it to a semi-final of a World Championship. On the other hand, France missed their first World Championship semi-final since 2007 after winning silver medals in 2009 and 2011.

Poland were dominant throughout the whole match. Who thought that the three-goal advantage at the break would be levelled easily by France in the second half, was completely wrong. 

The powerful Poles, backed by the saves of goalkeeper Anna Wysokinska, had to withstand only difficult situations when France were trailing by only one goal such as when the score stood at 21:20, but finally the Poles took a deserved win.

"I have no words to explain my feelings. To beat a team like France is unbelievable. They are one of the best teams of the world. To beat them in a quarter-final of a World Championship is even more (unbelievable)," said head coach Kim Rasmussen.

Serbia – Norway 28:25 (15:16)

Serbia made their dream come true – for the host it is the first participation in a World Championship semi-final since becoming an independent nation.

After they had reached the EHF EURO semi-final in 2012 on home court but eventually missed a medal, they now want to go all the way.

The match in Belgrade was attended by 15,923 spectators in the Kombank Arena, which means a new world record for women’s handball matches.

The former record was set at the EHF EURO 2012 semi-final Serbia vs. Montenegro which was attended by 13,200 spectators.

14 saves of Serbian goalkeeper Katarina Tomasevic, eight goals of outstanding line player Dragana Cvijic and a never ending fighting spirit decided the match, in which Norway had already been away 20:15 before conceding 13 goals and scoring only another five.

The first half had already been a game of two halves – the first 22 minutes, when Norway were clearly dominant and overran the hosts, leading 11:6, were followed by the first Serbian catch-up chase that nearly levelled the result at the break.

Norway then started brilliantly again and led 21:16, before the spectators pushed Serbia to the limit.

While Norway did not score for 14minutes, Serbia scored seven unanswered goals to grant themselves with 25:23 lead which they did not give up until the end.

"My team played like a champion today. We beat the best team of the world of the last years. We won against the Olympic champions, the defending world champions. Thank you, my team!" Serbian coach Sasa Boskovic said.

Photos: Uros Hocevar and Stephane Pillaud (IHF photographers)

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts