If you plan to follow the Olympics in some capacity this summer, be sure that handball is included in your agenda. The sport, which can be argued as a hybrid of basketball and soccer, is an action-packed, gripping event. You may lose track of the countless goals, but rest assured that with every pivot, jump and goal, you’ll be left wondering why you never sought to bring your elementary school handball skills to the next level.
Handball is something of a European phenomenon; 12 national teams for the men and women qualify for the Olympics, and this summer, 15 of the 24 teams are represented by a European nation. In the 11 Olympics that handball has graced, the Europeans have shared a medal with just two other countries: South Korea and China. The United States has failed to offer a formidable handball team for six straight Olympics.
In Rio, host-nation Brazil will represent both the men and women, and the women’s team is anticipated to shake things up after winning their first world title in 2013. They hope to join South Korea and China on the medal chart and also overthrow powerhouse Norway.
For the men, the French handballers are two-time reigning gold medalists; however, they face a talented Qatar squad, which fell to France 25–22 in the 2015 world championships. Qatar recently naturalized several top players for their national team, and the process drew criticism when Qatar reached the worlds final. Winning an Olympic medal would only continue to further criticize that process.