Preview: Men’s handball quarterfinals

France vs. Brazil

9:00 a.m. EST

After the women’s defeat to the Netherlands today, the host nation will turns its eyes to the men. And, boy, do the have a tough task. 

France are the reigning Olympics (two-time reigning, actually), European and World champions. They boast one of the most versatile teams in the competition and just came off an impressive victory over Denmark. 

Brazil, meanwhile, looked absolutely flat in their loss to Sweden in the final round. This team is best when they get a rhythm going and feed off each other’s energy. France have the best defense and the best goal keeper. Brazil need to find another way to get the ball moving than fast breaks, because France are going to provide very little opportunities for that. 

So who can challenge Daniel Narcisse, Valentin Porte and Nikola Karabatic (among others)? It starts with Fabio Chiuffa, the chief strategist for Brazil’s up-tempo game. The right winger would most likely challenge Porte and Luc Abalo on the right wing, with Alexandro Pozzer holding things up in the middle. 

Brazil have proved in their match against Germany that if they hang on long enough and get one spark going, then it will be enough for them to sneak out with a victory. 

To call this a bad match up for Brazil would be an understatement. It’s going to take serious concentration and composure to pull off what would be the most stunning upset in handball history (if they pull it off). 

Germany vs. Qatar

12:30 p.m. EST

Germany have been the definition of consistent. Aside from their narrow loss versus Brazil, this team has been steady in every aspect of the game. Tobias Reichmann has really been coming into his own after a small start, and Patrick Wieneck has emerged as a very nice complement. 

They’re quarterfinal opponent is a tricky one in Qatar, who’ve taken a much less consistent approach to this tournament. They opened strong against Croatia, were embarrassed by France and escaped Tunisia, narrowly lost to Denmark in a hard-fought encounter, then just get by Argentina. It’s been a strange competition for them. 

Zarko Markovic and Rafael Capote have led the offensive charge game-in, game-out for Qatar, while Bassel Alrayes and Hassan Mabrouk have been a challenge to break through in the middle. The latter two are going to be responsible for containing Wiencek, but that leaves a lot of space on the wings for Reichmann and Uwe Gunsheimmer. 

Looking at the entire competition, Germany are coming in much stronger and have looked like medalists, but if Qatar can display some of the talent they showwed against Croatia and Denmark, then they could upend the Germans. 

Slovenia vs. Denmark

4:00 p.m. EST

It’s a shame that these two sides have to meet in the quarterfinals because they both have put on performances that look deserving of the gold, silver or bronze. 

Lasse Svan and Mikkel Hansen were two of the most deadly players during group play, the former demolishing defenses from the wing while the latter took care of business closer to the middle of the court.

This is a very physical team that’s played some very good handball. Slovenia are having a dream tournament, guided by the 19 year-old Blaz Janc. They had the best defense in group play, constantly pushing forward and applying pressure on the opposition. 

It’s going to be a tough ask to contain Hansen and Svan, who’ve been so dominant in every single game they’ve played. This is going to be a nail-biter of a game that’s going to come right down to the wire. 

Both of these teams are worthy of playing for the gold medal, but only one will get a chance to advance to the semifinals. 

Croatia vs. Poland

7:30 p.m. EST

Following a loss against Qatar, Croatia defeated both Denmark and Sweden – two gold medal favorites. If that isn’t enough to scare the rest of the competition, then the competition is seriously overlooking the likelihood of a Croatian gold medal. 

Domagoj Duvnjak is the leader of this team and he’s got a great supporting cast. Manuel Strlek, Ivan Cupic, Marko Kopljar all move the ball around incredibly well and their size makes it difficult for defenders to contain. 

Poland have their own superstar, though, in Karol Bielecki. The left back has been the center of Poland’s offensive positions and his presence garners the attention of the opposition who try to put one or two men forward to contain him. That leaves people like Pryzemyslaw Krajewski and Michal Daszek to attack and impose from different angles on the court. 

But here’s been the problem with Poland: they’ve struggled against better opposition. They were handled by both Germany and Slovenia, the two best teams in Group B. There wasn’t any glaring reason why they couldn’t close it out, except for the fact that they were just up against a better team. 

It’s a similar story in this match up. Poland are good. Croatia are just more physical on both sides of the ball and maneuver it around the perimeter better. Poland will hold them close throughout the game, but just might not have enough to hang on for the entirety of it.