With round three officially over, the groups are finally beginning to take shape. Very little has been concluded, with the exceptions of Russia clinching a QF spot and Argentina and Montenegro (in all likelihood) eliminated from contention. With only two more rounds to go in group play, the matches are sure to be more electric and unpredictable than ever.
1. Brazil: 4 points (+11 goal differential)
2. Norway: 4 points (+10)
3. Spain: 4 points (+8)
4. Angola: 4 points (-4)
5. Romania: 2 points (-13)
6. Montenegro: 0 points (-12)
1. Russia: 6 points (+8)
2. France: 4 points (+19)
3. Sweden: 4 points (+11)
4. Netherlands: 3 points (+4)
5. South Korea: 1 point (-8)
6. Argentina: 0 points (-34)
Group B: France (2-1) decimate Argentina (0-3) 27-11
France finished Wednesday's group play with a thumping over bottom dwellers Argentina. Argentina never stood a chance against the French arsenal. Turnovers plagued the Argentines, who scored only four goals in the first half.
Manon Houette (seven goals) and Laurisa Landre (six goals) led the scoring for the French side.
Group B: Phenomenal save draws South Korea (0-1-2) level with Netherlands (1-1-1)
South Korea finally looked like semifinalists early in their match against the Netherlands on Wednesday night, but the Dutch looked equally impressive.
Also coming into form was Gwon Han Na, who was largely absent in South Korea's first two games. She dominated play on the court in the first half, generating 11 shots and scoring on six of them.
As for Netherlands it was the usual suspects: Nycke Groot, Estavana Pollman and Tess Wester were all exceptional. Groot and Pollman both scored three times for the Dutch, while Wester made a heads up play to throw the ball into the empty South Korean net to give the Netherlands the lead at the half.
Two turnovers early in the second half by South Korea gave the Dutch the all clear to move five goals ahead. From there the Dutch continued to unload on the fast break. Gwon Han Na and South Korea weren't deterred, putting the offensive pressure on Netherlands, leveling the game with only five minutes remaining.
The Netherlands slowed down the pace in the final two minutes and it paid off, with Groot sneaking her way through to find the back of the net. It was Gwon and Groot dueling at the end, each exchanging goals in the final moments of play.
At 32 all, on the final possession of play, van der Heiden drew the foul to be awarded with a seven meter penalty, much to the disgruntlement of South Korea. But the superb goalkeeping by the 44 year old Oh Yongran that saved the day for South Korea, saving the penalty shot and giving South Korea the crucial point.
Group A: Norway (2-1) crush Angola (2-1) 30-20
Norway quickly stomped on Angola's dream run, cruising to a 7-1 lead early. The Angolans were thwarted at every scoring attempt as Norway forced turnovers.
Katrine Lunde made a surprising start in goal today, since Kari Aalvik Grimsbo has typically been favored over the iconic keeper in recent months. Lunde saved 45% of shots faced.
The Norwegians quickly put this one away, pummeling Angola off the fast break
Nora Mork was again stellar. The right back was a perfect eight-for-eight in shooting.
Group B: Russia (3-0) first to advance to QF's in hard fought 36-34 win over Sweden (2-1)
Russia were the first team to claim their ticket to the quarterfinals after defeating Sweden.
This game had all the promise of being a high scoring affair, and both sides equally delivered. Isabelle Gullden and Nathalia Hagman scored half of Sweden's goals, netting the ball 11 and six times, respectively.
Swden were for Russia's strikes from the flanks, tightening the gap between the wing and back, closing down on Russia's scoring assets. It worked well for them, as Sweden led at the half.
It were the breakthrough shots that were most beneficial to Russia, and a large reason why they grabbed the victory.
The Russian defense picked up late, forcing Sweden to turn over the ball. Anna Sen's steal led to a crucial fast break goal by Daria Dmitrieva in the final 10 minutes to level the match at 28 apiece. A rare turnover by Linnea Torstensson gave Russia the chance to finally claim the lead, which Vladlena Bobrovnikova provided.
It wasn't until the 27th minute where Russia looked keen to seize control of the match, as Sweden were held scoreless for nearly four minutes until Torstensson brought her team to within two goals. But the damage had been done, and Russia proved once again that they can turn on the switch at any minute to turn the game around.
Group A: Neagu wills Romania (1-2) to 25-21 victory over Montenegro (0-3)
Montenegro won't get back to the knockout phase to defend their 2012 silver medal. Both of these countries entered play at 0-2, a far cry from the results that their collective star power is capable of.
It was a literal clash of two titans in women's handball. Romania's Cristina Neagu and Montenegro's Katarina Bulatovic had the responsibility of carrying their respective countries on their shoulders, knowing that anything short of a win gurantees an early exit.
These two star players took over the first half, forcing their way to break through and find the back of the net. Neagu finished the half with four goals to Bulatovic's five, but it was Romania that held the 11-9 lead at the break.
Very little separated these two teams, but Neagu proved why she's the best player in the world. She was simply faultless today, leading the team in all aspects of the game - even taking over the coaching role during team timeouts.
Neagu finished the game with 10 goals. Bulatovic scored nine times, respectively.
Romania still have quite a ways to go to survive the group stage, and are clearly on the outside looking in at the moment. There are two more matches to be played; two more opportunities to make up for an embarrasing start to the competition.
Group A: Defense guides Spain (2-1) to 29-24 win over Brazil (2-1)
Spain entered Future Arena on Wednesday morning well aware that they needed to slow down Brazil's tempo to have a fighting chance. They did just that. By individually marking Ana Paula Belo and smothering Brazil on the fast breaks, Spain caused Brazil's lightning fast pace to a screeching halt.
Spain took it to the Brazilians early, stretching the defense thin and finding gaps in short range and from the flanks.
Brazil tried to force the plays on the offensive end early on, looking to make the play themselves rather than feed the ball to their castmates and stretch out Spain's defense.. It didn't work well for them. Spain managed to close up the gaps that Brazil looked to break through, forcing ill advised shots.
Ana Paula Belo particularly had a frustrating first half. With her being individually marked, Belo had just two opportunities to score in the opening 30 minutes of play.
The porous Brazilian defense was less effective, typically pushing one or two players up from the defensive line, giving Spain the opportunity to weave their way through the gaps. Spain couldn't make all of those opportunities count, though, missing a couple easy chances to extend their lead that was once six goals.
A late goal from Deonise Fachinello pulled Brazil to within three at the end of the half.
Brazil needed to find some sort of strategy to get through Spain and keeper Silvia Navarro. Brazil looked to Fachinello and Fernanda Franca da Silva to make up for the scoring the Belo would usually provide.
A window opened up for Brazil as Spain were given a double two minute suspension early in the second half, but Jessica Quintino wasted it after blowing an easy opportunity to score off the right wing.
Nerea Pena was phenomenal for Spain. The left back, who scored eight goals, continually picked apart the Brazilian defense.
Alexandra do Nascimento brough Brazil to within just two goals 15 minutes into the second half with a strike from the right wing.
Drama continued to build in the final 10 minutes of play, with Brazil still down by just two goals.
Brazil drew the two minute suspension from Patricia Elorza in the 22nd minute. Just moments later a penalty by Marta Mengue gave Brazil the double power play. Da Silva capitalized on a costly Spanish turnover in the 24th minute, bringing Brazil down 24-25 in the 24th minute of play.
But they just couldn't make the most of it, and it was the Spanish defense again that held tough in the closing minutes. Fachinello was again drawn into a two minute suspension of her own, which proved costly for Brazil as Elizabeth Pinedo scored off the fast break. Pinedo scored six attempts during the match.
Another two minute suspension for Brazil in the final two minutes of play sealed the victory for Spain, who were up by three goals and had the one player advantage.
Despite the loss, Brazil are still on track to reach the quarterfinals.