Women’s preliminaries: Round one preview

Norway vs. Brazil (Group A)

Time: 8:30 a.m. EST

Norway enters the women’s handball competition as the favorite to claim back-to-back-to-back gold medals. Brazilian handball is in its best position for a podium finish in the country’s history as it features two World Players of the Year (Alexandra do Nascimento and Eduarda Amorim). Though they did claim their first-ever World Championship in 2013, the Brazilians had a lackluster appearance two years later when they finished 10th. Brazil will heavily rely on Nascimento and Amorim to contain the scoring capability of Norway’s pivot Heidi Loke. It may not be enough, though, as Norway seems to have too many scoring threats that could dampen the home crowd’s hopes of a strong start to the competition.

Netherlands vs. France (Group B)

Time: 10:30 a.m. EST

Though the Netherlands enter Rio as gold medal contenders, the French are certainly no pushovers. France plays a patient and physical style, looking to pounce on the opponents’ mistakes. The Netherlands’ flaws were exposed by Norway at the 2015 World Championships, where they were trounced 20-9 in the first half. Led by center back Nycke Groot, the Dutch are going to have to play a much more disciplined style of play if they are to get a favorable result against a resilient French side.  

Russia vs. South Korea (Group B)

Time: 1:40 p.m. EST

South Korea is a consistent threat to claim the top place at the Olympics, and this year will be no different. The country has never been eliminated prior to the semifinals and has no intention of doing so here. Russian head coach Yevgeny Trefilov is bringing in a younger squad than in London which he hopes will see them cause a couple upsets throughout the competition, but it doesn’t look like it will match up so well against a tightly-knit and experienced Korean team led by center back Gwon Han-na.

Montenegro vs. Spain (Group A)

Time: 3:40 p.m. EST

These two countries have battled it out on the big stage on a couple of occasions these past four years. The physical Montenegrin side got the better of Spain in the semifinals of the Olympics in 2012 to clinch the country’s first-ever medal, while Spain returned the favor at the 2014 European Championship. Both sides will be itching to set the record straight and send a clear message to the rest of the competition. It will be up to right back Katarina Bulatovic to lead Montenegro past Spain.

Romania vs. Angola (Group A)

Time: 6:50 p.m. EST

For a nation that boasts the best handball player in the world, Romania is yet to reach the top of any competition, to the irritation of left back Cristina Neagu. Though she willed her team to a a couple of respectable finishes at recent European and World Championships, a player of her caliber is desperate for that elusive gold medal. The first hurdle for this Romanian side will come against Angola. Angola may be a common fixture in the Olympics as they often come out of African qualifying, but it just doesn’t have enough talent to shut down the scoring threat of Neagu.

Sweden vs. Argentina (Group B)

Time: 8:50 p.m. EST

The opening round of play closes as Sweden takes on Argentina. Neither of these clubs is poised to make a deep run in the tournament, though Argentina may fare better with left winger Manuela Pizzo who, along with Argentina, will be making her Olympics debut. Sweden’s chances of a strong showing are again slim, but the team’s experience playing in the Olympics could be just enough to tip this match up in their favor.

Be sure to catch all of the day’s action on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.