On the last day of competition at Al-Gharafa before the action moves to the bigger stages at Katara Beach, the handball heated up even as the evening temperatures cooled.
The women’s opener was a classic, Brazil and Denmark offering a fascinating contrast in styles. The Danes were imposing, physical and athletic, pounding out the yards; whereas Brazil concentrated on tight, fast passing, with some Neymar-like finishing from their specialist Jessica Alves Ferreira.
The south Americans had not yet lost a game here, and the European champions gave it everything to stop them, driven by by Line Kristensen’s nine goals in nine attempts and some superb goal-line defending. The Danes just edged the end-to-end first set 23-20., but Brazil found another gear in the second and took in 20-16. The shootout was not a classic: the Danes were on point, a miss and an obstruction from Brazil, and moments later the European champions were in the gold match.
They will face a Hungarian side who had far too much for Vietnam after the Asian team’s giant-killing session yesterday evening, Hungary running down the clock in the second half to win 21-14, 16-12.
Sweden were drawn against Spain, who had pushed out the Danish men in yesterday’s thriller. One of the tightest matches of the tournament eventually finished in another shootout which Spain edged out finishing 22-20, 16-17, 9-8.
The stage was set for a monster finale in front of a full house between unbeaten hosts Qatar and multiple world champions Brazil, with both sides featuring many international veterans of the sport.
A testy first set saw both sides awarded penalties for obstruction, and the lead switched multiple times before a couple of huge saves saw Brazil nose in front. In the end the visitors took the first set 15-14, in a game so tight that Qatar were left with a ball in the air heading towards the goal as the whistle went for the first half.
Both teams went for broke in the second; wide, loose and aggressive, with both specialists busy pulling off huge reaction saves before Qatar edged in front to take it 14-10 to a deafening roar across Central Court. The shootout that followed was unfortunately a disaster for Qatar, and solid enough for Brazil. The visitors will see Spain at Katara tomorrow night.
Brazilian number 10 Gil Vicente de Paes Pires was composed afterwards: “To make this [happen], with a full house, with everybody screaming a lot but not for us, not for Brazil, we feel the energy, the atmosphere, it’s fantastic because we are athletes, you know?”
This will not be the first time Brazil and Spain’s men have clashed at the top level, and the players will be familiar with each other’s game. “I hope it will be a great spectacle tomorrow.” said Gil. So do we, Gil. So do we.