Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Faliro Sports Pavilion Arena, Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex, Faliro; Olympic Indoor Arena, Helleniko Olympic Complex, Hellinikon
Date Started: August 14, 2004
Date Finished: August 29, 2004
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
The 12 menâs teams qualified for the 2004 Olympics as follows â Greece as the host nation; the top seven teams from the 2003 World Championships (Croatia, Germany, France, Spain, Russia, Hungary, Iceland); the top team from 2004 European Championships, not otherwise qualified (Slovenia, which finished second); Brazil as the 2003 Pan American Games Champion; and the winners of the 2003 Asian and African Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (South Korea and Egypt, respectively).
In the round-robin phase, World Championship medallists Croatia (Gorup A) and France (Group B) survived without defeat. Finalist Germany also made it into the quarter-finals, but had incurred losses against Hungary and France. The Sydney champions, Russia, had seen a poor start of their campaign, beating only tiny Slovenia and Iceland, narrowly making it into the next round. Pitted against the French in the quarter-finals, they were soon three points down. But the Russian team picked itself up in the second half, and two late goals opened up a two-goal difference that remained in place until the final whistle (26-24). The other quarter-finals went as expected with Hungary, Croatia and Germany completing the all-European semi-final line-up.
In the semi-finals, the Russians were defeated by the strong German defense, losing in a low-scoring 21-15 match. Croatia and Hungary kept it close, the World Champions making it into the final after 33-31. The final then came down to a re-match of the 2003 Worlds, and with the same outcome. The Germans didn't make it easy for Croatia, leading 12-11 at half-time. The two nations remained neck-on-neck until the 55th minute, when [Mirza DÅ¾omba] and [NikÅ¡a Kaleb] opened up a two-goal lead that proved decisive. The Russians, meanwhile, took the bronze in a 28-26 win over Hungary.