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Date: 3/20/2016
 

France defeated Japan in the second match of the evening at Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament I in Metz to secure their place at the 2016 Olympic Games, after the Netherlands ended their campaign strong with a 26-goal victory against Tunisia. 

The Denmark 2015 silver medallists finish with the maximum six points for the competition after three straight wins, topping the group. 

Sunday March 20 in Les Arenes, Metz
Tunisia vs Netherlands 20:46 (10:27)

With little to play for and the odds of a win strongly in their favour, Netherlands coach Henk Groener took to the opportunity to start with a different seven than usual and practice a 5-1 defensive system. 

Tunisia had some strong moments but lost the ball in attack too often, allowing the Netherlands to create a clear 10:4 lead after 10 minutes. Line player Yvette Broch and left back Lois Abbingh led the onslaught of Dutch fast breaks, scoring goal after goal until Tunisia coach Mohamed Riadh Sanaa called his first time-out when the score board showed 5:14 for the Netherlands in the 15th. 

But the outcome of the match was decided early, and the Netherlands soon held a comfortable 10-goal advantage at 15:5. By half-time the 22nd IHF Women’s Handball World Championship silver medallists had created a decisive 17-goal gap that would prove impossible for the African champions to come close. 

The Netherlands only had to hold on through the second half. With 10 minutes remaining the score line had increased to 24 at 39:15 for the Dutch, and the win that had been clearly on the way since the opening minutes was secured. 

Player of the Match presented by adidas: Lois Abbingh (NED) Left Back

France vs Japan 25:17 (11:7)

In contrast with the first match of the evening in Metz, France and Japan took to the court with everything to play for and a place at the Olympic Games at stake. 

It was a slow start to the match with both teams struggling against their opponent’s strong defence, but it was Japan who found the goal behind France’s notoriously steadfast 6-0 first. Allison Pineau added the first goal for the hosts but Japan retained an edge at 2:1 after five minutes. 

After 10 minutes the score was level at 3:3, and it was at that point that France put in the first difference of the match with Estelle Nze Minko breaking through to take the score to 5:3 midway through the half. 

When Japan had failed to score for almost eight minutes and France had increased their advantage to 6:3, coach Masamichi Kuriyama called a time-out. But Japan lost the ball in the next attack courtesy of French keeper Amandine Leynaud and by the 20-minute mark the hosts had moved further ahead to 8:3. 

Just when it looked as though the European team had taken firm control Japan fought back and decreased the difference to 7:9 with less than two minutes remaining in the half, but France managed a late scoring run that secured a crucial four-goal lead at the break. 

Japan returned with a brief burst of energy when the match resumed, but France’s half-time advantage had already created the turning point of the game and the home side refused to relinquish the lead. With 15 minutes remaining France held a six-goal lead at 18:12, and as the clock ticked on their place in Rio became increasingly more secure. 

When captain Siraba Dembele scored a fast break in the 57th to put the score at 25:15 it was rewarded with a huge cheer as the crowd knew their team were through to the Olympic Games. 

Player of the Match presented by adidas: Allison Pineau (FRA) Centre Back

Photos: Stephane Pillaud

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