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Rio - Men's handball, player special


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Big day today in Rio (at least for me and all the handball fans). The knockout stage in men's handball just started less than an hour ago with the first quarter-final between Brazil - France.

Tonight at 22:00 CET my home country, Denmark, gets in action against Slovenia. If Denmark wins tonight, it'll be the first time they face an Olympic semi-final since 1984 - considering the success "we" have had in the last 10-15 years in handball, it's quite a surprise that Denmark hasn't played an Olympic semi in the 21st century.

Slovenia brought a team to Rio packed with technically skilled players and they have been playing outstanding in their offense. Didn't actually expect to see Slovenia being able to move a defence in the way they have done so far - to play in such a high tempo and constantly move your opponents isn't easy and it's only something you see from the best players in the world. One of the stars, Dean Bombac, got an injury and is no longer in the squad. Despite Slovenia's quality on the playmaker and back positions, they are definitely going to miss him in tonight's game.

My pick for tonight's cracking quarter-final is a player special, and we're going to look at one of the two Toft Hansen brothers on the Danish team, Henrik Toft Hansen. Looking at the odds I find a nice value on him to score under 1.5 goals.

Along with his brother René and the experienced pivot Jesper Nøddesbo, he'll be fighting the Slovenians inside the 9m line - he is competing with two other quality pivots for the attacking position. I expect him to play most of the game, as he is one of the leaders in the Danish defence, but I don't expect him to get that many scoring opportunities during the game.

So far in the tournament Denmark hasn't been setting up their pivots during the game like they used to do years ago. Coach Gudmundsson have probably changed the priority of attacking plays, when he took over the the team from former coach Wilbek who had pivot plays as one of his strengths. 
Henrik Toft will most likely get a couple of scoring chances, but I don't expect many of them to be that big. Slovenia have had nothing less than 43 suspensions this summer, more than twice as much as the Danes! They are certainly not afraid of tackling a pivot in a scoring position and tonight's match-up shouldn't make a difference. This (hopefully) means that when/if Henrik gets a scoring chance, the Slovenian defence will go hard on him, and therefore leave the ref with no other choice than to call a 7m-penalty and a potential suspension (which Henrik won't be taking).

Henrik Toft Hansen has only gone over the line of 1,5 goals once during this year's tournament (3 goals in first match against Argentina). Henrik's strength as a pivot is obivously his physical power, but I see the other pivot Jesper Nøddesbo as a better finisher than Henrik, and if coach Gudmundsson after all decides to set up some pivot plays for the quarter-final, he could easily use Nøddesbo instead (although he hadn't played much during the first games).

Slovenia won 22-21 against Denmark in the last test match before the Olympics (5th of August). 43 goals in a handball game isn't much, and if it turns out to be the same kind of game, it'll be tough for Henrik to get enough chances to score 2 or more goals. It's difficult as a bettor to evaluate a test game just before a tournament, as different tactics and players are being tested, but it gives us an indicator of how the game could go, although I do expect this match to have more than 43 goals.

I estimate the chance of Henrik Toft Hansen to score less than 1.5 goals is 60% and with the odds of 1.72 for this outcome, you get a betvalue on about 103%


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Go Denmark! The Swedish team did to my surprise not manage to win a single match, and yesterday our ladies got totally demolished by the nowegians in the quarter.

When in a hurricane, some people build shelters while others build windmills.
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