Handball Day 15 Preview: A Norway-Russia showdown

  2008-08-23 02:52:11 GMT    2008-08-23 10:52:11 (Beijing Time)    BOCOG

  (BEIJING, August 22) -- For the third time in a row, Norway and Russia will battle for a medal in a Women's Handball final, this time for an Olympic gold at the National Indoor Stadium on Saturday, August 23.

  The finely-balanced teams clashed in the 2006 European Championships, when Norway won and at the 2007 World Championships final when Russia got an overturn.

  Placement match 7-8

  Sweden vs. Romania

  After winning four of their five preliminary matches, Romania disappointed on Thursday by losing 36-34 to France after double extra time. Romania placed fourth in the 2007 World Championships and has one of the tournament's best goalkeepers, Luminita Dinu, who has saved 41 per cent of shots. The team prides itself on right wing Ramona Maier, the tournament's top scorer with 53 goals, but its overall performance has not been as good as that of a few individuals.

  Sweden lost their first placement match 20-19 against China on Friday. Left wing Matilda Boson said the match was one of Sweden's worst performances in years. They scored with less than every second shot (45 per cent) and only succeeded with four of seven fast breaks. However, this is Sweden's Olympic debut and performances in preliminaries against teams like Germany or Brazil made them worthy of competing for fifth place. Their best goal scorer is left back Linnea Torstenson, with 36 goals, and the team is one of the most efficient from the 6m line. They scored with 36 of 48 attempts (75 per cent).

  Placement match 5-6

  China vs. France

  China beat Sweden 20-19 in their first placement match and could repeat their Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games result, when they finished fifth. China's player of the match against Sweden was 21-year-old left back Wang Shasha, who scored five goals. Pivot Liu Yun has scored 28 goals in the tournament and is the team's 7m penalty specialist, with 14 goals from 21 attempts.

  France lost 32-31 to Russia in double extra time in the quarterfinals but, again after double extra time, managed to vanquish Romania 36-34 in that placement match. Only two on-field players left in the French team have scored fewer than 10 goals.

  Bronze medal match

  The Republic of Korea vs. Hungary

  The ROK lost their semifinal 29-28 against European champion Norway with a goal on the fulltime buzzer from Norway's centre back, Gro Hammerseng. Left back Moon Pil-hee (KOR) scored nine goals. Moon has contributed a lot to her team's success in this tournament, scoring 32 goals and assisting in another 22.

  Hungary lost their semifinal 22-20 against world champion Russia on Thursday night. Russia led by seven goals after 25 minutes but Hungary fought their way back, narrowing the gap to two goals. Centre back Anita Gorbicz (HUN) missed three of five 7m penalties in the match against Russia, a field that is usually one of her strengths, but she remains the team's top scorer with 44 goals, 15 of them penalties.

  Gold medal match

  Norway vs. Russia

  The two European powerhouses were the strongest teams in the competition. Russia lost only one point in the preliminaries when they tied with the ROK. They had a tough time in the quarterfinals, needing double extra time to see off France. They then cruised to a relatively convincing 22-20 victory against Hungary in the semifinals.

  Norway has won all their seven competition matches, scoring 214 goals with 352 shots, and a 61 per cent shot efficiency that makes them a most dangerous side in the tournament.

  Key players on the two teams are Hammerseng, Kari Mette Johansen (NOR), Katrine Lunde Haraldsen (NOR), Natalia Shipilova (RUS), Emiliya Turey (RUS) and Liudmila Postnova (RUS).

  Team statistics veer slightly in Norway's favor; they are more efficient from the 6m line and scored 73 per cent of their chances compared to 67 per cent for Russia. Both teams have scored 50 times with long distance shots from the 9m line, but Norway show far more poise from the 7m line, succeeding with 17 from 23 penalties against Russia's 26 from 45 attempts.