Germany - Norway and Russia - Romania will be the semi-final clashes of the Women's World Championship in France. Germany beat Angola, Russia won a thrilling match against Hungary, Norway made light work of Korea and mucht to the regret of the home crowd, WCh host France was eliminated after two highly exciting extra-times against Romania.
In the first round of the placement matches (5 to 8) Angola will meet Korea and France plays Hungary on Saturday morning.
Germany - Angola 36:33 (18:14)
Germany has qualified to the semi-final of a World Championship for the first time since 1997- but it was hard work for the Germans before their cheering on the court, as Angola fought until the end. Thanks to Grit Jurack (Germany's top scorer of the match with eleven goals) Germany led 6:1, before Angola switched in defence to act more offensively. The Africans became stronger and stronger as did the German goalkeepers Englert and Woltering later. Three consecutive goals at the beginning of the second half helped Angola reduce the margin to 17:19. Germany then committed more mistakes in offence but reacted to break away from 33:26 to 35:28. It seemed as if everything was clear but top scorers Marcelina Kiala (13 goals) and Ilda Bengue (8) brought Angola closer again to 33:35 before Melbeck netted the deciding goal with 20 seconds before the final whistle. Just one piece of bad news for the Germans: World Handball Player Nadine Krause got her ankle injured on minute 58 - and so far nobody knows whether or not she will be able to continue.
Quotes from the coaches:
Armin Emrich (Germany): "We knew before that Angola would fight 60 minutes long. We are proud to be in the semi-finals but it was hard work, as we made too many mistakes. But now we are focussing on the semi-final."
Geronimo Neto (Angola): "It was an open match, both teams could have take the victory. As we had a bad start, Germany was able to run ahead. But we are here to learn, and up to now, we have learned a lot.
Hungary -Russia 35:36 (22:20)
The reigning champions seemed quite unsettled until the very last second when Hungary was granted a free-throw and the Russian defence blocked. During the whole match the lead changed quite frequently with the better end for the Russians, which earned their third semi-final spot in four recent WCh tournaments.
Until 9:9 everything was very tight, then the Russian defence had problems with Hungary scored a series of 8:2 goals to rush to 17:11. But instead of staying calm and concentrated Hungary did not manage to keep control on the match, while the "Russian bear" with strong pivot Natalia Shipilova and wing player Emilia Turey being wide awake. Seven consecutive goals meant 18:17. But the ‘rollercoaster' continued when Hungary with Timea Toth, who scored six goals in the first 30 minutes, managed the better finish in the first half to run ahead to 22:20. In the beginning of the second half, Hungarian goalkeeper Katalin Palinger improved and with her the whole team, yet the Russia seemed to turn the match to advance to 29:28 (‘43), before Hungary (now led by playmaker and top scorer Anita Görbicz/10 goals and Palinger) was in front 33:30. During a thrilling finish Russia was in front 36:34 when Balogh scored. Losing the ball in offence, the Russians gave Hungary the chance to draw but they were not able to break the "Russian wall". Powerful handball met speed - and in the end physically stronger Russia progressed to the semi-final.
Quotations from the coaches:
Andras Nemeth (Hungary): "We played a very good match and played the best we could. Seven weak minutes in half-time one decided the match, otherwise we would have been able to win." Jewgeni Trefilow (Russia): "Görbicz and Palinger were the best players from Hungary - and I do not comment players from my team. In the semi-finals it doesn't matter which team to play, as both are absolute world class, there's no difference between France and Romania.
Norway - Korea 35:24 (16:12)
Norway's clear quarter-final victory brought them a spot in the semi-final against Germany, keeping its role as one of the favourites in this tournament and keeps focussing on their main objective to win the second WCh after 1999. Only in the first 15 minutes and until the score of 8:8, Korea was able to stand the pressure and the speed of the reigning European champions, then specially top star Gro Hammerseng (top scorer of the match with ten goals) contributed three consecutive goals to a comfortable 13:8. Due to some Norwegian faults in offence Korea reduced to 11:13 and to 12:14, but then the favourite easily cruised to 16:12 half-time score. On the goalkeeper position Norway had made a top choice with Katrine Lunde. Three fast-break goals made the Scandinavians rush ahead 21:15, who seem to relax in the last 20 minutes of the match. Even a team time-out coach Kim had requested could not bring Korea back on track, as the team from Asia figured out serious problems in offence, while Lunde showing an outstanding performance between the posts. Norway brought the victory home and dry at the score of 24:15 (‘44).
Quotations by the coaches:
Marit Breivik (Norway): "I'm very satisfied with this match, especially with our defence, goalkeepers and the fast-breaks. Usually it turns out hard playing the fast Korean players, but we played very well today. "Jinsoo Kim: "Norway had three advantages: They had more time for preparation, their team was faster and their team was younger."
France - Romania 31:34 (27:27, 24:24, 14:8)
Tears and joy come close together: Extra-time was required to establish the winner of the Romania-France clash that kicked France out of the final four to compete for the medals. The regular playing time saw two completely different half-times and the better end in the second extra-time for the Romanians. 12,000 fanatic spectators - including a brass combo - provided a great setting for the last quarter-final. The opening minutes featured outstanding French goalkeeper Valerie Nicolas. Thanks to her France broke away to 5:1. France further improved, overrunning the WCh runners-up to extend the lead to 12:5 on minute 22 - and still Nicolas was one of the main figures together with Sophie Herbrecht until the half-time break. Nobody knows what Tadici told his players in the changing room but it seemed to be exactly what they needed. Afterwards the Romanian defence acted more aggressively, goalkeeper Dinu improved and the attackers hit the goal. Supported by the spectators France seemed to stand this critical phase, but at 17:17 Romania equalised for the first time. Then the match was a head-to-head run. The last action during the regular playing time was a direct free-throw for Romania blocked by the French defence: 24:24 required a first extra-time period! In the first ten minutes both teams had the chance to end the match but none of them got through. After 75 minutes Romania led 30:29 and managed to break away to 32:29 - the match which brought the crowd near a heart-attack was over and France had to kiss goodbye the dream of winning their World Championship on home soil.