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Monday, September 26, 2011

London 2012: The Race for Places Continues!

WITH eleven month to go to the Olympics the race for places at 2012 is still wide open.

Only four of the 24 teams who will compete are known – both Great Britain men and women as hosts, the French men as World champions and the Norwegian women as European champions.

But the tension will rise in October, when the Asian and Pan American Continental Qualifications take place which will decide another four participants.

The last handball highlight of 2011 will be the Women’s World Championship (December 2-18) in Brazil. The World Champion will qualify directly for London 2012, while the nations ranked 2nd to 7th book their tickets for the Olympics Qualification tournaments end of May.

There are a huge number of contenders in Brazil, where the Russian women are trying to grab their fifth World Championship title in ten years.

At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing they finished second after losing to Norway in the final.

The Northern Europeans are also among the favourites despite some key players being injured or unavailable.

Apart from France (runners-up at the last World Championships in China), Romania (Bronze medalist at the EHF EURO 2010) and Korea (always on top performing level before Olympics) are also among the favourites. And teams like Montenegro, Sweden or host Brazil have an outside chance in the race for the medals.

One of the last big handball events before London 2012 will be the Men’s EHF EURO 2012 in January in Serbia, where the finals will be held in the 20,000 capacity Belgrade Arena.

As ever, the main contender for the title will be France, who are the reigning EHF European and Olympic champions.

Led by coach Claude Onesta, they have been unbeatable in all major tournaments since the Olympics in Beijing and have re-written history: After taking the Olympic gold medal they took two World Championship titles (2009 and 2011) and one EHF EURO title (2010) – and they are the first ever team to hold all major trophies at the same time.

With world-class stars like former World Handball Players of the Year Nikola Karabatic and Thierry Omeyer, the best defender in the world Didier Dinart and the most spectacular player Luc Abalo, France is like a wall in defence and a bulldozer in attack, unstoppable!

Below France, Croatia (Olympics champions 2004 and world champions 2003), Denmark (European champions 2008 and Silver medallist at the World championships 2011), Spain, Iceland or hosts Serbia are hope for medals.

Denmark, Spain and Sweden will host the last chance for the London 2012 tickets – the Olympics qualification tournaments on the Easter weekend 2012.

And by the end of May all the teams who will play at the London 2012 Olympics will be known.

Text: Björn Pazen

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