Bronze medal match: Germany vs. Poland

9:30 a.m. EST

These two teams first squared off in the second round of group play, which feels like eternity ago. 

So what has changed during that time? For starters, Germany has seen much of its ensemble perform well and regularly contribute, giving some breathing space to Tobias Reichmann – who hasn’t been their top scorer this tournament. 
Poland have been playing at a higher level since that defeat and really recovered well since falling 0-2 in group play. The formula’s been much of the same: let Karol Bielecki score and dominate the middle of the court. He outlcassed Julius Kuhn in their previous encounter and is such a huge threat from the left back position. 
Germany showed how their success or failure depends on movement and variety at the center of the perimeter. France closed it early and forced Patrick Wiencek to become a nonfactor, sending France seven goals ahead. Later, when Germany found their footwork and crafted plays from that position, nearly completed the comeback. 
Uwe Gensheimer is Germany’s top scorer in this tournament so far, and he’s going to have to work with Kuhn to cut in from the left wing and dart past Bielecki. Poland, meanwhile, can do serious damage on the opposite wing with Michal Daszek and Krzystof Lijewski – who shot a combined 11 for 11 in their upset against Croatia. They were a combined 8 for 12 in their loss to Denmark (including extra time). 
Germany are a bit more relaxed in play and a bit more fluid and precise in scoring opportunities, and that saw them through in these two teams’ first encounter. It may be just enough for the second. 

Gold medal match: Denmark vs. France

1:30 p.m. EST

Again – liked Germany and Poland – these two have met before and, again – like Germany and Poland – France squeeked by with just a three point margin. 

Neither of these teams looked particularly great, though, in their semifinal games. France let a seven point lead slip, while Denmark played a very choppy game against Poland. If these two teams can clean up play and remain composed, then it will prove to be a thrilling encounter and a grand display of handball. 

Denmark are, arguably, the second most versatile team in the entire competition (France are the most versatile). Mikkel Hansen is a constant presence in the back/pivot position on the court and, with Martin Olsen, can easily run through or shoot through opposing teams’ defenses. 

Lasse Svan has been one of the most effective wing players in the entire competition and decimates any team willing to draw a couple extra players to Hansen. Casper Mortensen is available on the other side if Svan ever runs into trouble or is closely marked. 

France, as alluded to before, are versatile in their own rights. It starts with Daniel Narcisse and Nikola Karabatic at the top of the court, then Valentin Porte, and trickles down to Kentin Mahe, Michael Guigou and Luc Abalo – players who all craft routes from the wing or back position and into the six meter mark. 

This shape has been a living nightmare for defenses and, so far, the only way to beat this team is to win in physicality. Denmark doesn’t play that way – they lost to Croatia, too. 

Though Hansen is one of the strongest players on court, he relies on his teammates’ flexibility and athleticism to move the ball around the perimeter and get the goal. It’s a strategy that fell just shy of beating France in their previous encounter. 

There isn’t much that separates these two teams. Hansen and Olsen will likely duel with Karabatic and Narcisse. Svan will be tied to a rotation of Abalo. Mortensen will be challenging Mahe and Guigou. 

Two teams that play a very similar style of play leads to interesting match ups like these. It will likely come down to the intangibles: whichever team keeps an even head and concedes the least two minute suspensions will likely be donning the gold medals. 

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