Poland upset Croatia 30-27, advance to SF's
Croatia embarrassed Poland in the European Championships in Krakow earlier this year. The Poles, almost certain to advance to the final four, were shellacked by Croatia in front of their home crowd. Heads down, shoulders sagged they walked off the court in front of a dejected arena.
Tonight was there chance to turn the tide in handball's biggest competition.
Both teams pressed each other, using their physicality to try and break down that line. Karol Bielecki was on fire for Poland early, scoring five goals on his first six attempts.
Poland moved the ball well, trying to get that tall Croatian defense out of position. The Poles took a five goal advantage late in the first half - Croatia had some work to do to get themselves back in it before it was too late.
Croatia, led by Domagoj Duvnjak and Manuel Strlek, employed the strategy of trying to use their superior physicality to barge through the middle of the court.
Mikkel Hansen may have been specifically marked, but Slovenia had trouble accounting for the rest of the Danish side.
As the Denmark defense pushed forward to crowd Hansen, it often opened up space for Martin Olsen to drive in the ball from the pivot position or find Lasse Svan - the deadly winger- from the flank.
Blaz Janc and Marko Kopljak did their best to work from the win and back positions, generally freeing themselves up before striking near the center of the perimeter. Despite their effort, Slovenia had issues matching Denmark's versatility and pace.
The wingers continued to be the chief threats for Denmark, with Svan and Casper Mortensen having a field day against a thin Slovenian defense.
For a team that performed so well and so cohesively during the group stage, Slovenia just looked out of sorts against a superior Danish team today. They failed to properly position themselves in defense and just couldn't find a way around Denmark when they held position of the ball.
Germany set up SF clash with France, cruise past Qatar 34-22
The Germans were assigned to find a method on how to find their way through a very tough Qatari defensive side coupled by Rafael Capote and Zarko Markovic - not to mention, get the ball past Danijel Saric.
Germany were superior in moving the ball around and spreading it thin, knowing that getting through the center would be tough to pass.
Brazil faced the incredibly tall task of taking down handball giants, France. After holding them level for the first half, Brazil just could not hold on in the second half.
The first few minutes looked a bit ominous for Brazil as France quickly jumped to a three goal lead, but Alexandro Pozzer led his team to quickly get a rhythm going and slow down France in transition. Brazil were very quick to reorganize themselves on defense, forcing France to find creative ways to move the ball around the perimeter.
Michael Guigou's excellence from the wing in the first half is what really bothered Brazil. His presence and excellent touch on the ball caught Brazil off guard several times as he expertly poached from the wing and into scoring position.
Brail remained competitive in the first half, level at 16 apiece with the two-time defending gold medalists.
France pulled away midway through the second half off the fast break. Guigou continued to be the primary contributor for France. Daniel Narcisse also applied the pressure from the center back position, pushing his way through the Brazilian back line.
Pozzer's two minute suspension gave France the opportunity to open up the lead, breaking through the center of the court with the lack of extra Brazilian support.
France began to look more relaxed after that, smoothly passing and moving the ball around the perimeter. Brazil began to look a bit flat, too, getting a bit more slack on defense and more error prone in their passing and shooting.
Then it was the French depth that took over, excellently rotating in and out of play to stay fresh against Brazil's mostly-starting seven who found themselves down by six goals in the final nine minutes.
In a match against a giant, the Brazilians just had too tall of a task to pull off the upset and fell short.