One of the more unknown yet entertaining sports to look forward to in the 2016 Summer Olympics is Team Handball. Here in the US, we do not have a team qualified on either the women’s or men’s brackets, so the American advertising and media coverage for handball is understandably limited. As a sports fan, you should still take the time to check out some of the games.
For those who don’t know the rules of the game, and thus might have some trouble understanding the game-play, I’ll explain some of the rules.
First, here is a link to the USA Team Handball website to view some of the rules yourself.
A regulation court measures 20 X 40 meters, just slightly larger than the size of a basketball court. Players are allowed to be in all areas of the court except the goal area line, or 6-meter line, which looks like a semi-circle around the goal. Only the goalkeeper is allowed in that area.
Teams consist of 6 players and a goalie have the goal of throwing a leather ball into the goal of the other team. The team, simply enough, who scores more goals by the end of 2 30-minute halves wins the game. Games can end in a tie unless the game format demands a winner, in which 2 5-minute overtime periods will occur until a winner is decided.
To move the ball, players may pass unlimited times, as well as run with the ball, and are allowed 3 steps for each dribble of the ball, so there is more free movement than a game of basketball in a way. Also, players cannot hold the ball for more than 3 seconds without passing and/or attacking the opponent’s goal.
Players can not pull, hit, or knock the ball out of the ball-carriers hand, and must play defense by blocking and intercepting passes and shots. Players must also not, beside the goalkeepers, contact the ball below the knee (thus “handball”) or dive onto the ground.
For a minor foul, a free-throw is taken from the exact spot the foul occurred. The thrower must keep a foot on the floor, and shoot the ball or pass to a teammate.
A 7-meter throw occurs when a foul interrupts a clear chance to score, a goalie brings the ball from outside the goal area inside the goal area, a player on the floor intentionally throws the ball to the goalkeeper, or a defender enters the goal area to defend an attacking player.
When a 7-meter throw is awarded, all players except the shooter and the keeper must remain outside the marked free-throw line. The shooter has three seconds from the time he gets the ball to shoot and try to score.
Now knowing the basic rules, you can watch the games with more of an idea of what’s happening. I take pleasure in watching sports for the strategies that teams employ, and what different teams to do try and score and defend.
On offense, ball handing is essential. The best teams can pass and move the ball quickly while keeping control of the ball. Players should have effective spacing and ball movement to keep the defense off balance and unable to zone in on a small number of attackers. Another essential aspect of effective offense is unexpected cuts toward the goal by all players, so the defense has to respect everyone as a threat and never is able to get comfortable. Without a shot clock, teams do not have to necessarily take the first open shot, and they move the ball close to the goal to try and set up the best shots possible.
On defense, players usually are assigned a zone outside the goal area, rather than guarding a particular player. An individual is responsible for blocking shots and keeping in front of players cutting to their zone to try and pass or shoot. Similar to basketball defending, defenders should try to not leave their feet and stay in between attackers and the goal, as jumping or cheating too much in one direction will create a weakness in the defense.
As new fans, in order to fully enjoy the games, it is important to know some of the better teams and players to watch, to see the game at its top level. On the men’s side, Team France won gold at the 2012 and 2008 Olympics, and is the most recent winner of the World Championships in 2015 held in Qatar. As such, they are considered one of the favorites, if not the overwhelming favorite, to win a third gold medal in a row.
The team is led by 39-year-old captain Goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, who won the MVP of the 2015 World Championships and has arguably been the best keeper and player overall in the last 2 Olympic tournaments.
However, France will be tested early in the Olympics, as they have to play Team Qatar, 2015’s runner-up, Team Croatia, who got 3rd place in the 2012 Olympics, and Team Denmark, runner-up in the 2013 World Championships, all in the group stage of the competition.
Highlighted n the other side of the bracket are Team Slovenia, with 2015’s highest goal-scorer Dragan Gajić, and Team Sweden, 2012’s Olympic runner-up. All of the teams mentioned have a legitimate chance at competing for the title. Out of the 12 Men’s teams, 7 are European, and many of the favorites to win the title, beside Qatar, are located in Europe.
On the Women’s side, Team Norway present themselves as the heavy favorites to take gold. They, like the French Men, won gold at both 2008 and 2012’s Olympic Games, as well as the 2015 World Championships. Heidi Loeke leads the team with 612 goals in 164 appearances, as well as Goalkeeper Katrine Lunde, who has appeared in the starting role in 247 competitions to date.
Also similar to France, the Norwegian women will have to be on their game early, as they have to face Team Montenegro, 2012’s runner-up, Team Brazil, hosts and 2013 World Champions, and Team Spain, 3rd place finishers in the 2012 Olympics, all in the group stage. On the other side of the bracket, Team South Korea seem to be the favorites to win a lot of games, and contend for a championship.
It is difficult to try and figure out when games on TV take place, but closer to the Olympics, there will be more scheduling and details available to try and figure out when you can watch Team Handball in Rio. Make sure to try and take some time out to watch and enjoy a new sport for many Americans.
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