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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Four Nations: First Blood to Switzerland

Switzerland 32
Italy 26

The opening game in this GB Women’s Four Nations Handball tournament here at the ECHO Arena in Liverpool saw Switzerland beat Italy 32-26 in a match in which the Swiss were always in control.

Despite a fantastic performance from Italian left-back Silvia Scamperle (pictured) who notched up 11 strikes and was the top-scorer in the match, her side couldn’t compete with the Swiss although the early stages of the match saw the scores tied at one point before the Swiss stretched their lead to 6-3 through Annina Ganz, just shy of the 12th minute.

A two minute penalty just seconds later for the experienced Swiss left-back Nicole Dinkel allowed the Italians to bring the game back square, but the Swiss started to show glimpses of their form as pre-tournament favourites as Denmark-based pivot Arienne Geissman started to take control of the court and alongside right-back Karin Weigelt opened up their lead to three, prompting Italian coach Tamas Neukum to call a time out for his team after 14 minutes.

Italy came out from their short break refreshed with Scamperle and Italian left-wing Cristina Lenardon starting to make a match of it. Helped by Swiss pivot Andrea Willimann being given a two-minute penalty on 23:43, the Italians started to compete as Scamperle scored from the resulting penalty and their right-wing Carmen Onnis scored soon after to bring the scores back level – but this would be the last time in the match as Angela Dolder put the Swiss 13-12 up just three seconds before the half-time break.

Weigelt, Dinkel, Geissman and Annina Ganz then proceeded to turn the screw on the Italians who found themselves five down and, visibly despondent and tiring, as Coach Neukum called another time out just six minutes into the half.

Despite Scamperele taking her tally to 11, Italy never came close to troubling the Swiss in the second half who looked stronger as the game went on, with quick, fluid movements swift handling and smooth passing and link-play with Geismann, who top-scored for the Swiss with seven strikes, and Ganz proving more than a match for their opponents.

Despite a number of two-minute penalties agains the Swiss in the latter stages, Italy were unable to compete and will go in to tomorrow’s match against Portugal knowing that they have a lot of work to do on the training court.

The Swiss meanwhile will be looking ahead to their game against GB tomorrow knowing that they will have to move up the gears to compete against a strong-willed side with fantastic partisan support.

Report by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

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