Very little has been decided after four rounds of play. France, Denmark and Croatia have all qualified out of Group A. Germany and Slovenia will advance out of Group B. Brazil, Poland and Egypt all enter the final round with a lot of work to do to secure those final two spots in Group B, while a showdown between Argentina and Qatar will settle the fourth and final place in Group A.
Group A Standings:
1. France: 6 points (+23 goal differential)
2. Denmark: 6 points (+13)
3. Croatia: 6 points (-2)
4. Qatar: 3 points (-9)
5. Argentina: 2 points (-12)
6. Tunisia: 1 point (-12)
Group B Standings:
1. Germany: 6 points (+6)
2. Slovenia: 6 points (+6)
3. Brazil: 5 points (+2)
4. Poland: 4 points (+4)
5. Egypt: 3 points (-8)
6. Sweden: 0 points (-20)
Argentina (1-3) still alive in group play after 23-21 win over Tunisia (0-1-3)
Argentina suffered some tough losses in this tournament. After putting strong fights against Denmark, Croatia and France they fell just short each time of snatching a point. Tonight, though, they entered Future Arena as favorites for the first time this competition, and they were impressive.
Federico Pizarro - who made an impression earlier in the competition with an insane free throw - was particualrly impressive for his side, scoring six goals in the first half.
Argentina were quick to get things going, rolling out to a five goal lead over Tunisia.
With the win, Argentina move up to fifth in Group A and now control their destiny. With a fifth round match coming up against Qatar next, Argentina can shock the world and grab the final place over the medal contenders.
Tunisia are effectively eliminated.
Poland (2-2) come from behind, def. Sweden (0-4) 25-24
Another day, another heartbreaking loss for Sweden.
They looked much more composed in the opening half this time, too, allowing just 12 goals. Jerry Tollbring provided his usual scoring capability, shooting three-for-three in the first half.
But if this team were to get its first win, it would need to shut down Karol Bielecki. After a brief struggle in the opening minutes of the second half, Sweden were able to shut down Bielecki and capitalized on it, opening up a three goal lead.
Kim Andersson provided support for Tollbring in the second half, coming up with some good plays on top of the arc. Andersson's presence on the right back position provided the pivot with that extra option to pass to, and it attracted the attention of some of the Poles who let some space in between their positioning.
Philip Stenmalm also had a good game for Sweden, scoring eight goals.
Poland took the lead late with a goal by Przemyslaw Krajewski in the 25th minute. Andersson received his second two minute penalty a minute later, and Sweden found themselves in a precarious situation down a man and a goal. A missed shot from the wing would lead to an empty net goal and a 24-22 lead. One more turnover by Sweden just moments later would seal the deal, and it's another heartbreak for the Swedes.
Poland, though, are now occupants of a fourth place spot in Group B heading into the final round of group play.
Group B: Brazil (2-1-1) come up with 27-27 draw vs. Egypt (1-1-2)
Brazil looked completely out of sorts on offense for most of the game, surrenduring five turnovers in the first half.
Mohamed Besham Elbassiouny led Egypt with three goals in the first half.
Egypt weren't quite as effective in scoring in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, missing the target on several occassions - Maik dos Santos also saved a handful of shots. A turnover by Brazil nearly gave Egypt a three goal advantage, but an incredible save by dos Santos prevented the goal off the break.
Egypt's tight marking continued to rattle Brazil, who just struggled moving the ball around.
Two poor mistakes cost Egypt the double power play 17 minutes into the second half, but Brazil - in line with their attacking woes - just couldn't make it count and turned the ball over once more. Ibrahim Elmasry was a key member of that defense that saw out the win for Egypt today, giving his marker such little space to move with, forcing missed passes, shots and charges.
But Egypt had a tough time going on offense, too, and couldn't pull away far enough from Brazil. Luckily for them, Brazil continued with the turnovers. They surrendered seven in the first 22 minutes of the second half.
Andre Soares helped give his side some life in the second half, scoring four goals and drawing them within one goal in the final three minutes.
A clutch save by dos Santos in the 28th minute gave Langaro the levelling goal in the final minute of play to the uproarious cheer by the crowd.
Egypt had the last chance to attack in the final 28 seconds off a free throw and drew a seven meter penalty as Ahmed Elahmar - who scored ninegoals in the match - drew the penalty. But again it was dos Santos with the save to give Brazil one more chance to clinch the quarterfinal spot with eight seconds remaining, but they just couldn't score on the ensuing attack.
Group A: Denmark (3-1) def. Qatar (1-1-2) 26-25 in closing seconds
Qatar got off to a hot start early in their match against Denmark, but Denmark did well to weather the storm.
Lasse Svan was pivotal for Denmark on the wing. His constant threat from that angle opened up space for Denmark through which to work. They only five shots from beyond nine meters in the first half, while Qatar had to shoot 18. Svan wasn't just happt to sit around and be a distraction, though, frequently cutting in from the wing and scoring with ease.
His presence continued to put the pressure on Qatar in the second half, and took the burden off of pivot Mikkel Hansen as he was able to work the ball around much more effectively with a thinned-out Qatari line.
Zarko Markovic kept his team within striking distance, putting up seven goals of his own.
Qatar were never quite able to figure out how to properly defend Denmark, as the Danes moved too well for Qatar to close down the presumptive striker - that is until Denmark received a two minute suspension. The loss of a man gave Qatar the chance to finally stop the pressure and get back on even terms.
Following two free throws, Qatar reclaimed the lead in the 28th minute courtesy of Rafael Capote from the left back position. Denmark quickly tied it at 25-25 and stole the ball in the final five seconds remaining. Hansen picked up the ball at half court and rushed down to bury the ball in the net as time expired, handing Denmark the victory.
Group A: Croatia (3-1) edge France (3-1) 29-28
Croatia did a very good job handling the versatility of the French national squad on Saturday. The line did a good job holding France from breaking through or finding a man on the wing, as Frace were forced to take 13 shots from beyond the nine meter crease, scoring on just one of those opportunities.
Michal Guigou did the lifting for France during that time - where Nikola Karabatic was 0-4 - scoring on six of six chances.
Martin Strlek, the left/center back for Croatia, was difficult for France to contain as they were tied up trying to prevent Domagoj Duvnjak. Croatia's physicality and aggressive defensive approach gave them the 14-12 advantage at halftime, France's first time trailing at the half.
Karabatic had an opportunity to level the game at 29-29 in the 29th minute, but he hit the post as he was dragged by the Croatian defender which - to his fury - did not merit a penalty throw.
The first match of the day pitted two of the most disciplined teams in the competition.
Germany needed to come up with a formula on how to get through one of the best defenses in men's handball thus far against Slovenia, who allowed an average of 26 goals per match leading up to this game (best in Group B).
Both countries employed a similar style of play today, looking to force the shot outside of the nine meter line on defense while wrestling their way through that six meter line on offense. The result of this was a tight match, and a very even one throughout. Slovenia were slightly more successful breaking through, but Andreas Wolff bailed Germany out with some fantastic saves, even diving on the floor to save a would-be empty net goal on a fast break.
Both sides held up pretty strongly, but a quick lapse in concentration by Slovenia gave Germany the chance to put the Slovenians on edge. Tobias Reichmann provided that for Germany, giving his side its first lead five minutes into the second half with a strike from the wing.
Reichmann just seemed to be in the right places at the right time during that time, finding another rebound in the seventh minute to give Germany the three-goal advantage. Wolff continued with his good performance as well, and proved he could contribute to the scoring as well, scoring two goals off the empty net.
Germany and Slovenia currently possess six points each in group play, which should be good enough for both of them to advance. An Egypt loss to Brazil earlier today will secure their position.