Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Copper Box, Olympic Park, Stratford, London
Date Started: July 29, 2012
Date Finished: August 12, 2012
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
The men's field was strong. The top 7 nations of the 2011 World Championships all qualified for the Games. There was one nation standing out, however: France. As the reigning Olympic champions, they had also claimed the 2009 and 2011 world titles. The only blemish on their record was the 2012 European Championships, where they finished only 10th (after winning the 2010 edition). That title had gone to Denmark, which had also been runner-up at the World Championships, and could thus be seen as the chief challenger of the French.
The pool matches provided little surprises, but the quarter-finals were all closely fought. Hungary beat 2008 silver medallists Iceland 34-33 after two extra time periods, while France beat Spain despite a three-goal deficit at half-time. Croatia had also been behind against Tunisia but prevailed, as did Sweden, which ousted neighbours Denmark. As in 2008, France and Croatia met in the semi-finals, and as then, the French won, bringing them very close to becoming the first ever team to retain an Olympic handball title. Sweden earned a one-goal win over Hungary for their nation's fourth Olympic final berth, having lost the previous three. The two finalists had also played each other in the group phase, France winning 29-26 over the Scandinavians.
Cheered on by a large contingent of French supporters, the defending champions set down a strong defense, with a leading role for goalie Thierry Omeyer. At the break, the score was only 10-8, and the match remained tight throughout the second half. The closing stages were exciting. With just a minute on the clock, Niclas Ekberg brought Sweden back within one goal of the French. Luc Abalo responded quickly with a powerful shot to make it 22-20. That goal proved decisive, despite Sweden making it 22-21 with just 23 seconds on the clock.
In October 2012, it became known that several French handball players were investigated in a match-fixing scandal in the French competition. Among those questioned as part of the investigation were Nikola Karabatic, France's handball star and Samuel Honrubia, both on the gold medal team.
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