W handball QF's preview - WSMV News 4

Preview: Women's handball quarterfinals

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Brazil vs. Netherlands

9:00 a.m. EST

Both of these teams enjoy fast-paced handball and rely on momentum to get the job done. Netherlands, though only 1-2-2 in group play, are a very tough team for Brazil. Following their first round defeat to France where they only scored 14 goals, Netherlands have scored an average of 30.25 goals per game. Yvette Broch, Nycke Groot, Laura van der Heijden and Estavana Pollman have all emerged as the Dutch's premier playmakers and enjoy that fluid play on offense. 

Brazil could be facing some serious nerves now, with the pressure of an Olympic medal weighing on their shoulders. But this team's proved to perform well under stress, evidenced by that opening round victory over Norway. Ana Paula Belo and Alexandra do Nascimento are the stars of the team, but Deonise Fachinello has been crucial to the team's versatility. 

Though this game will most likely be a high scoring affair, it could very well be determined by the keepers. Tess Wester and Barbara Arenhart have both been incredible in this tournament, and their sharp reflexes and vision have gifted their respective teams with clutch saves and momentum-shifting fast break and empty net goals. 

A quick start is vital to both of these teams' success, but Brazil are just a bit sharper in transition and a bit sturdier in defense. And that could be good enough to get the job done and see them through a tough opponent. 

Spain vs. France

12:30 p.m. EST

France enter the quarterfinals in superb form. Boasting the strongest defense in the league, they've only been broken once - to Russia in the second round. This backline is nearly impossible to break and punishes teams that don't take excellent care of the ball. 

Spain aren't necessarily the fastest team on the court, and that could be the difference in this match. They don't provide the pace that the French like to use as a counterpunching mechanism. They're a bit more deliberate in their attacking and a bit more efficient in scoring. Nerea Pena, Elizabeth Pinedo and Alexandrina Cabral are all viable scoring options. 

Alexandra Lacrabere and Siraba Dembele are going to have to hold up the center of the court well, like they have continuously done, and bide their time as the Spaniards deliberate their method of attack. It's going to be a very close game, and very well could get into extra time, but France are just a bit more skilled and composed. 

Norway vs. Sweden 

5:00 p.m. EST

Sweden knew they'd be in for a tough game if they lost to France, and they certainly drew the short end of the stick against Norway. 

This Norwegian team continues to impress. That Veronica Kristiansen-Camilla Herem pairing on the back/wing has proved to be a lethal weapon for Norway as the threat of Nora Mork and Heidi Loke in the middle of the court opens space for the former two players on the flank. 

So how can Sweden hold their own? Nathalie Hagman is the short answer to that question. Hagman's been the key to Sweden's offensive, and her playmaking was missed when the France tightly marked her. Norway are equally likely to close down on her, so it's going to be up to Isabelle Gullden and Linnea Torstensson to provide support for her. Norway are beatable - if Sweden generate enough turnovers and quickly get into position on the fast break, then they could be a tough challenge as Norway continue their quest for a third successive gold medal.

Russia vs. Angola

8:30 p.m. EST

Russia are the most offensively oriented team in the competition. It doesn't matter that they've given up the most goals because they've also scored the most. Even when they were pitted against France, they still got 26 shots in goal (the most France allowed). 

Angola are in the quarterfinals because of their 2-0 start, which seems ages ago. This team's form is not in a good place - they've lost three straight games. But if there's good news, it's that they've at least hung in there for two of the three losses. And if the volatile Russians suddenly get cold, Angola would be wise to pounce on that opportunity. 

It seems incredibly unlikely, though, because Russia just have too many weapons. From Polina Kuznetsova, Daria Dmitrieva, Anna Vyakhireva - anyone on their squad really - this team just knows how to score and blow the game wide open. And they'll likely do so again against an Angola team that's just been in very bad form. 

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