Five European sides reach Tokyo 2020
European teams scooped five of the six places available at the men’s qualification tournaments for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, played from Friday to Sunday night. Norway, Sweden, Germany, France and Portugal were the teams to celebrate berths at the upcoming Games, where the men’s handball competition will take place from 24 July to 7 August.
EHF EURO 2020 semi-finalists Croatia and Slovenia were the two European sides to miss out on places at the Olympics, while Brazil were the only team from outside the continent to book a Tokyo 2020 ticket.
Already qualified for the Olympics thanks to their results in other events were Denmark (world champions) and Spain (EHF EURO 2020 champions).
Tournament 1 — Podgorica (NOR)
Norway were the only European team in Tournament 1, facing Brazil, Chile and Republic of Korea in the battle for a place at their first Olympic Games — and only second overall — since 1972.
The EHF EURO 2020 bronze medallists had no trouble recording three decisive victories in the tournament, beating Brazil 32:20, Chile 38:23 and South Korea 44:31.
However, Norway’s qualification for Tokyo 2020 was not assured before the final match and their victory over South Korea not only secured their berth, but decided Brazil’s place at the Games as well.
Tournament 2 — Montpellier (CRO, POR, FRA)
Both tickets to the 2020 Games came down to the result of the final match between Portugal and France on Sunday night, which saw an incredible finish as Portugal scored two goals in the last minute to snatch a 29:28 victory and secure their historic berth. With the win, Portugal decided both the tournament’s tickets to Tokyo 2020, knocking Croatia out while they qualified alongside France.
Prior to the deciding game, Portugal and France had each taken wins against the fourth team in the group, Tunisia — Portugal won 34:27 in their opener before France recorded a 40:29 victory against the African team on day two. France had also beaten EHF EURO 2020 silver medallists Croatia 30:26, while Portugal lost to the Balkan side, 24:25.
On day three, Croatia took a critical win against Tunisia, 30:27, which kept their hopes of reaching the Games alive and then they played the waiting game — which ultimately ended in disappointment.
For France, it is the eighth consecutive Olympic berth, while Portugal have never reached the Olympic Games and will therefore make their debut in Tokyo. The team played the weekend with black armbands featuring the initials of recently deceased goalkeeper Alfredo Quintana.
Tournament 3 — Berlin (SWE, SLO, GER)
EHF EURO 2016 winners Germany were the first to clinch a berth at Tokyo 2020 from the qualification tournaments when they defeated Algeria 34:26 in the opening game of day three. Prior to that, Germany took a clear win, 36:27, against a Slovenia side that had no answer for the defence and outstanding Andreas Wolff they faced.
The tournament hosts opened their campaign with a thrilling last-second draw, 25:25 against Sweden, which saw Germany wing Marcel Schiller score the equaliser right before the buzzer.
After the draw, Sweden beat Algeria 36:25, while Slovenia defeated the African team 36:28 on day one. With Germany’s place secured when Slovenia and Sweden took the court for the closing game of the tournament on Sunday, it came down to the direct result between the teams. Sweden led from start to finish, recording a 32:25 victory at the final buzzer.
For Germany, it will be the eighth Olympic campaign, while Sweden will play their ninth overall.
Photo credit: Jozo Cabraja/kolektiffimages