Brazil defeats Norway, 31-28
The host nation was quick to get the party started on Saturday, stunning the two-time defending gold medalists Norway at Future Arena. Led by pivot Ana Paula Belo, Brazil dominated the tempo throughout the entire game. The Norwegians never seemed to settle into the game, gifting Brazil turn overs and fouls.
Norway, who were down by as many as six goals late in the second half, will be quick to put this result behind them.
Tess Wester saved what could have been a momentum-swinging goal at the 46th minute, rushing back into position as the French player had a seemingly straightforward play on transition. The keeper continued with her outstanding play on the line, refusing to back down as the French looked to barge the door open once more. Wester, who wasn't even on the national team one year ago, saved 15 shots on goal.
Try as she might, Wester's heroics couldn't make up for her team's poor shooting performance, which rediscovered its first half woes. The French were able to capitalize on the opportunity and reorganize in transition play, opening a late five-goal lead that proved to be good enough to get the job done.
Russia comes back, defeats South Korea 30-25
In what proved to be a lesson in escape artistry, Russia pulled off a valued win over South Korea.
The South Koreans looked to be in charge early in the game, but the Russians managed to climb out of an early hole. After exchanging goal for goal, the first half ended with the South Koreans up by just 13-12.
The second half initially looked identical to that of the first, with South Korea pummeling the Russian opposition to start things off, handily extending their lead.
But Russia flipped the script.
In a newfound sense of scoring, coupled by timely South Korean turnovers, Russia managed to dig out of a seven goal deficit and charge to a 26-23 in the latter stages of the match. With confidence booming, Russia continued to pound the shaken South Korean team and complete the comeback.
Spain steamrolls Montenegro 25-19
Kicking off the back end of the first round, Montenegro squared off with Spain in what was a rematch of the 2012 London Olympics semifinals. But this time arond, it was Spain who came out on top.
Nerea Pena, Neli Alberto and Elizabeth Pinedo led the scoring for Spain, scoring four goals each.
The normally physical Montenegro back line was error prone, giving Spain far too many gaps to work through and turnovers to pounce on. Spain was happy to oblige, blitzing through the defense.
Montenegro's sloppy play on defense was equally poor on the opposite end, unable to work the ball through transition or Spain's back line. Even with Spain fouling and gifting reposession, Montenegro were never able to truly capitalize.
There were simply too many errors from Montenegro today to deserve anything but a negative result.
Angola defeats Romania 23-19
Slow and steady does not always win the race. Just ask the Romanians, who got off to an alarmingly slow start on Saturday night as they fell to Angola.
2015 World Player of the Year Cristina Neagu was not able to control the game as she wished, as her team moved at a sluggish pace for much of the first half. Left back Luisa Kiala caught Romania sleeping in the first half to strip the ball and score off transition. Angola would score five of their 11 goals in the first half off the fast break.
Romania was livelier in the latter stages of the match as Neagu picked up the tempo. Neagu, who has been irritated by her Romanian compatriots during her career, seemed to lose a bit of patience in this match as well as she couldn't will the tempo of the game in her favor.
Sweden sweeps past Argentina 31-21
The final match of the first round in women's handball pitted Sweden against Argentina. It was a proud moment for the Argentinians, who made their Olympics debut, despite being crushed by Sweden.
Sweden did a fine job distributing the ball, as all but one players had a a shot during the match (10 of Sweden's 12 position players scored). The smooth play by Sweden never gave Argentina much of a chance to stake their claim for an upset bid, outclassing them at both ends of the court and in transition.
Argentina, who qualified by virture of finishing runners-up to host Brazil (who were already guranteed an entry) in the Pan-American Games, entered the women's handball competition with no realistic expectation of reaching the knockout phase.