The day of the big decision and surprises: Host Brazil caused the biggest sensation of the XX Women’s World Championship: After being seven goals down at the break they beat top favourite France after an incredible second half, qualified for the eight-final and is on the best way to win group C, in which Japan achieved a sensational draw against Romania.
In group B Russia is almost qualified for the knock-out stage, too, with six points like Brazil on their account. Spain is in best position for the second rank after beating Korea. In group A Denmark and Sweden have made their third victory and are already among the 16 best teams. Group A is absolutely open with four teams having four points each. Germany almost lost against China.
Group A: Santos
Germany – China 23:22 (7:12)
In the last match of preliminary round group A Germany won against China 23:22. But it was – as the result implies – really a piece of hard work for the favoured German team, but thanks to a significent increase in performance in the second half, they were not the well-deserved, but the lucky winner. During the first 30 minutes China played it very well against the big favourite. Whatever the German team tried – the Chinese always found the right answer. The team from Asia was in the lead with six goals after 28 minutes and made it to a 12:7 at the break. It was clear that Germany had to respond in the second half – and they did. Goal by goal they approached and after 56 minutes the score was 20:20. 68 seconds before the end – the intermediate result was 22:22 – Germany took a time-out and after that Nadja Nadgornaja scored for the first German lead (23:22) 31 seconds before the end. Now China took the time-out but even with one player less Germany defended this close lead and made a very important victory with three goals in the end by the young player Nadja Nadgornaja. With four points they are nearly heading for the next round, while China lost their third match in a row.
Group B in Barueri:
Korea – Spain 26:29 (12:13)
Spain is the top hunter of ranking leader Russia after their second victory against their main contenders. After beating the Netherlands, now Korea was not strong enough to stop the Iberians. The Asians still have only two points on their account and will have to fight hard to overtake the Netherlands. Korea was shocked by a terrible start and was down 0:5 and 4:8 in the beginning. But suddenly Spain lost their rhythm, Korea turned the game around and took the lead. In the second half the match was on the edge like a roller coaster. Spain was in the lead, Korea equalized, then Korea was in front and Spain went even. Spain decided the game with a 5:1 series from 21:22 to 26:21 between the 53rd and the 58th minute. Top scorers were Mangue with six goals for Spain and Choi with eight for Korea.
Group C in Sao Paulo:
France – Brazil 22:26 (17:10)
They danced on the field, they could not believe what had happened – and they were just absolutely happy in the end: When the French players left the court heads held low, the Brazilians were jumping for joy. It was the best and most dramatic match of the World Championship up to now – and it was a game of two completely different halves: France seemed to be the winner at the break, but then the host started their engines, equalized a seven-goal margin and took the victory in the end thanks to the extraordinary performance of goalkeeper Chana Masson.
Despite the great and loud support of several thousands of spectators in Ibirapuera Arena host Brazil did not have a chance in the first half. As France built up their stone solid defence, the Pan Americans could almost not break through to the goals. On the other hand the French attacking tactic was either to score from the back court or by counterattacks. Former World Handball Player of the Year Alison Pineau led their team brilliantly and hit the back of the net six times in the first 30 minutes – the French fans, shouting “Allez les Bleus”, went crazy.
After their two clear opening victories Brazil was not powerful enough to stop the French who were playing like a machine. After the 4:3 the runners-up of the 2009 WCh took control and was absolutely merciless with the 2011 host. In the 22nd minute the score was 10:5, and at the break it were already seven goals – and despite some saves of goalkeeper Chana Masson Brazil could not catch up.
Coach Morten Soubak seemed to have found the right words, because his team improved in attack and defence – and the audience stood as one behind their team. In the 39th minute the gap was only three goals. The Brazilian middle block found the right way to defend the tall French shooters and if the balls passed, Masson saved. Flying on the wings of support from the stands, the host played extraordinarily, and even two time-outs within 18 minutes and changing the goalkeeper did not bring back the rhythm to the French players.
In the 49th minute Brazil equalized at the score of 21:21 – France was completely off the track and did not score anymore, as Chana Masson shut up the shop with an incredible 70 per cent of saved shots. And only two minutes later Brazil took the lead at 22:21 and even extended it to 25:21 in the 55th minute, which meant a series of 15:4 in 25 minutes. The Europeans were in a state of shock and the audience went delirious, at the latest when Masson saved a penalty of Paule Baudoin 150 seconds before the end, which meant the pre-decision in this highly dramatic game. And the rest was pure celebration and joy for the host.
Statements after the match:
Olivier Krumbholz, coach France: We played a very bad second half with a bad defence without aggression. We knew that the game would be difficult, as Brazil has a great team. It is my seventh World Championship as a national coach now, I know those difficulties when you face the hosting nation.
Morten Soubak, coach Brazil: To beat France is a great, I am very satisfied with the victory and the way we played. Fortunately we returned to the game very quickly after the break.
Claudine Mendy, player France: We are a little disappointed. We played a very good first half, but in the end we did not reach our objective.
Chana Masson, player Brazil: We are really happy, but we have to be realistic, because this was only the first step in this World Championship. It feels great to beat France, as they are one of the favourites in this tournament. To equalize seven goals against such a team is nearly impossible, but he had the faith to do so.
Group D: Sao Bernardo
Argentina – Ivory Coast 19:25 (8:14)
The Ivory Coast is dancing the „Mambo Number Five”. Ncho Elodie Mambo was one of the key players, when the Ivory Coast won their first match during this World Championship 25:19 against Argentina. With this success the girls from West Africa are given the opportunity to reach the next round. In a well-played and highly concentrated first half the Ivory Coast laid the foundation for winning this game. They took over the lead from the very beginning. Argentina tried their best, but they had not really a chance. After the first 30 minutes they were in the lead 14:8 and the match was already pre-decided. During the second half Ivory Coast extended the lead to a 19:9 after 38 minutes. After that they became a little careless so that Argentina caught up to 16:21. But in the end it was a highly deserved win for Ivory Coast whose best scorers Likane Julie Toualy and Bredou Paula Gondo scored five times just like the Argentinean player Luciana Mendoza. After the match Ncho Elodie Mambo said: “We’re happy to win our first match, but primarily we are here to learn.” If things work out fine for Ivory Coast, we will see her dancing the Mambo several times.