Danish Dynamite or Brazilian Samba – this is the question prior to the Match of the Day on Wednesday in Oldenburg. Four years ago, at the World Championship in Serbia, the Brazil girls danced on the court beating Denmark clearly 27:21 in the semi-final. And while Brazil – at that time coached by Danish-born Morten Soubak – finally took their first ever medal by winning gold at Belgrade, Denmark won their first World Championship medal since 1997, when they had taken the trophy in Germany.
Now the teams look quite different. After their surprising opening defeat against Montenegro, Denmark improved their play, beating Japan (32:18) and Tunisia (37:19) in a more than clear way. But now, bigger challenges are ahead for coach Klavs Bruun Jørgensen and his team – the final opponents in the preliminary round will be first Brazil, then Olympic champions Russia.
Brazil are below par and below their expectations so far – even the ticket for the eighth-finals is on the line. A draw against Japan, a more or less expected defeat against Russia and a highly lucky 23:22 against Tunisia is the outcome so far. “We can do it better, but we have to deliver,” said new, Spanish-born coach Jorge Duenas. Prior to their final preliminary round match against Montenegro, a victory against Denmark would change everything, as with then five points, the gate to the eighth-finals would be quite open.
But not only due to the support of their fans, the Denmark team are in the favourite role against the 2013 world champions, who did not make it to any semi-final since then.
Besides the Match of the Day, the fans in Oldenburg will see the matches Russia vs Japan and Tunisia vs Montenegro. After three dominant wins and the qualification for the eighth-finals, it is the clear goal of Russia to finish on top of Group C – to avoid the eighth-finals against Netherlands, Serbia or Germany. But the powerful Olympic champions should not underestimate the fast Asian runners-up. With their draw against Brazil and their victory over Montenegro, Japan are highly-motivated and full of confidence. The Russian defence will play the crucial role against Japan.
Montenegro on the other hand immediately need to stop the downswing after two defeats against Russia and Japan if they want to make it to the eighth-finals. Thus, the match against Tunisia (still on zero points) is a must-win for the team of Swedish-born coach Per Eriksson, which have their final encounter with Brazil.
After Serbia and Germany already booked their tickets after a draw in their direct encounter on Tuesday, both will fight for the top position. Therefore, the next top match for the bravely fighting Serbs today against the Dutch side is another decisive one, as on Friday the hosts and Netherlands lock horns.
Germany have the easier task today, facing a China side which are on the bottom of the table with zero points and a goal difference of -57. Anything but a clear German victory would be a major surprise. In today’s third match at Leipzig the role of the favourites is similarly set, when Korea face Cameroon. If Germany and Korea win today, Netherlands will book their eighth-final ticket regardless the result against Serbia, as then Cameroon and China would definitely be out of the race.