The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is slowly coming to the end so we are at the most important and most exciting part of the tournament. The first semifinal between France and the Netherlands brought a great level of excitement, as expected.
The two teams have already met in the group stage, right in the first round, and France won 18-14 in the game with the least goals in the tournament. But a second match between two teams, especially in the final stage of the tournament, is a completely different story. The Netherlands eliminated the hosts Brazil in the quarterfinals, causing probably the biggest surprise of the knockout stage, while the French team won a match that was already lost at halftime and in the second half against Spain. Their great comeback against the Guerreras could give them a momentum and an emotional high that could help them through the semifinals.
The Dutch girls scored the first goal of the match, and in the first minutes, both teams seemed to be nervous, making a lot of easy mistakes in attack. Being nervous is normal in the Olympic semifinal, and the Dutch girls with a lot less international experience seemed to calm down earlier than the Frenchwomen. The Netherlands took an early 4-2 lead with mostly fastbreaks, but this result was a wake up call for France. With nine minutes gone, France took the lead (5-6), and after 6-6, three French goals followed without a Dutch response. Nycke Groot stood up as a leader in the next minutes, with her two fast goals the difference was reduced to one single goal. However, they had to wait until the 18th minute to equalize (11-11), but another three French goals followed. France controlled the game during the most of the first half, and they went to the halftime break with a comfortable four-goal lead (13-17).
The second half didn’t start in any different way, the Dutch girls couldn’t come closer to the French team, and France kept them in a comfortable 3-4 goals distance. After the Netherlands reduced the difference to one goal (21-22), Olivier Krumbholz tried a change in the French goal, and it was clear after a few minutes that this change was timed really well. The second half was also a battle of goalkeepers, the two teams scored much less than in the first half. There was a two minutes period without any goals where none of the teams managed to score, but France was able to break the silence (22-24). The last nine minutes were about the two goalkeepers, the 24th French goal was the last goal they managed to score. In the 57th minute, the Netherlands came up to one goal again, and they still had 3 and a half minute to turn the match around. However, their first attempt to equalize landed on the goal post, and later Laura Glauser was unbeatable in the French goal: she had an efficiency of 71% in the last 15 minutes. Even though Tess Wester made some great saves in the last minutes, the Netherlands couldn’t use the chances to equalize or even win the game. With 30 seconds left on the clock, the Dutch team tried a last desperate attack to save the match, but they were not able to score. France will play the final on Saturday and is waiting for the winner of Norway-Russia later tonight.
All in all, France’s victory was a well-deserved one, they were the better team on the court today, beating the Netherlands twice in the same tournament.The Dutch run is already historic right from the first moment as they are participating in their first Olympic Games, and they still have their chance to fight for the medal in the end. Maybe it was the experience in international games like these that made the Dutch team lose today, but the key players like Groot, Polman and Abbingh were struggling against the great French wall and goalkeepers today. On the other side, the French players like Lacrabere or Pineau showed a good performance, and there was always someone who could help them survive the toughest moments of the game. The French medal is already sure, this is their first ever women’s handball medal in the history of the Olympic Games. We will see on Sunday if they will start collecting medals with the brightest one.
Rio 2016 – Women’s Handball Tournament – Semifinals
Netherlands – France 23-24 (13-17)
Netherlands: L. van der Heijden 8(2), N. Groot 3, E. Polman 2, M. Smeets 2, M. Goos 2, D. Snelder 2, L. Abbingh 1, S. van Olphen 1, Y. Broch 1, A. Malestein 1
France: A. Pineau 7(3), A. Lacrabere 6, G. Niombla 3, S. Dembele 3, E. Nze Minko 1, B. Edwige 1, M. Prouvensier 1, L. Landre 1, C. Ayglon Saurina 1
Penalties: 2/3 – 3/4
Suspensions: 4 minutes – 6 minutes