Preview: W handball SF's - WSMV News 4

Preview: Women's handball semifinals

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France vs. Netherlands

2:30 p.m. EST

Both of these teams are coming off on huge wins. The Netherlands absolutely stunned Brazil - actually handled them with relative ease. Meanwhile, France came out as victors in the most entertaining match of the tournament so far in their come-from-behind win against Spain. Will there be a hangover effect for either of these teams? 


These two teams met before in the first round of group play, with France emerging victorious 18-14. The Netherlands are a much better match up for France than Spain were. Unlike Spain, the Netherlands tend to play a very attacking-oriented style of play that is very similar to a "pick and roll" in basketball. This type of play often leads them vulnerable to counterattacks. France are specialists in the counterattack, which is why they beat Netherlands 18-14 in their previous encounter. 


The Netherlands have played at a much higher level, since. Estavana Pollman, Angela Malestein and Laura van der Heijden all have played very smartly on the front end, taking care of business off fast breaks and in transition. Plus they've got Nycke Groot in the pivot position, who'll do her best to fend off Siraba Dembele in the center of the court and stretch that defense out a bit for her counterparts to find the six meter crease. 


They're going to face a tough challenge against that French back line, though, that make it incredibly difficult for defenses to break through. Despite going into overtime against Spain, they still allowed just 26 goals.


Alexandra Lacrabere's been the primary offensive weapon this whole tournament for France and has been their leader in fast break transitioning. Dembele, France's captain, heads this brusing defense that consistently pushes players forward. Allison Pineau's also been coming into her own, after a relatively quiet group stage. The French woman played magnificently in the final minutes against Spain, closing down on their players and moving well around the perimeter to give her team a much-needed offensive boost. 


The Netherlands have to be incredibly disciplined in their attacking schemes and not give France any space to open up the fast break, or else it's going to be a quick game for them. The best strategy against this team might be slowing down the pace considerably, but that's out of character for the Dutch. 


On paper, this is an excellent match up for France and could very well give them clearance for a spot in the quarterfinals. But it's been a long time since Day One and the Netherlands have proved themselves capable of reversing that result. 


Russia vs. Norway

7:30 p.m. EST

These teams won their respective quarterfinal matches pretty easily and are now pitted against each other in a very intruiging match up. 

Russia are ambunctious, volatile and aggressive. Norway are cool, fluid and [also] aggressive. These two teams love playing the ball fast and both have loads of talent at their disposal. 

For Russia that means Polina Kuznetsova, Marina Sudakova, Anna Vyakhireva, Olga Akopian and Vladlena Bobrovnikova (who's really been in good form). For Norway it's the usual suspects: Veronica Kristiansen, Nora Mork, Heidi Loke, Camilla Herrem and Stine Bredal Ostedal. 

There's plenty of offense to go around and these teams are starving to work the ball on the fast break, putting pressure on the nine meter mark and looking for the interception. So what separates these two? 

Russia have a knack for turning on the switch when they need to, and it's gotten the job done in every single match they've played so far. Though they are prone to streakiness, this team always finds that extra gear to storm away from their competition. 

Norway, conversely, move the ball so cleanly that they rarely commit turnovers. Also, they are - aside from France - the best defensive squad in the game. They know how to close down on the center and on the wing. 

It's going to be a very tense match, and both of these two teams look to be in peak gold medal form. Norway will certainly capitalize on any Russian lull and Mork will do everything in her power to put this away, but if not - and if Russia do find that extra gear and get going - then Norway might find themselves competing for the bronze instead of the gold. 


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