France's women's handball team matched the progress of the country's men's team Friday by winning its semifinal to advance to a gold-medal rematch against ROC with a 29-27 win over Sweden.
The 2016 silver medalist and 2017 world champion opened slowly against Sweden, which has fewer international accomplishments but had tied the French 28-28 in group play in a game that ended on a missed French penalty.
This time, missed penalties nearly proved costly again. France was 0-for-4 from the 7-meter spot, while Sweden converted all six of its opportunities. With 38 seconds left, Swedish goalkeeper Jessica Ryde came up big again, saving a penalty effort by Allison Pineau with Sweden down by two. But Sweden couldn't hold on to the ball while racing down the court, and France ran out the clock for the win.
Sweden was not overawed by the frequent medalists on the other side of the court, storming out to a 5-2 lead. France came back quickly and traded goals on the way to a 15-14 lead, but Sweden regained the lead twice in the second half. France used a 4-1 run to take a 29-25 lead with 3:48 left, but Sweden replied to pull within three and then within two on a bizarre play.
Grace Zaadi, France's leading scorer in the game with seven goals, hit the post. Sweden quickly flipped the ball ahead to Elin Hansson, and French goalkeeper Cleopatre Darleux rashly decided to come out for the ball. She missed, and Pauline Coatanea had to tackle Hansson to concede a penalty rather than a goal. Sweden converted the shot but could get no closer.
ROC holds off Norway to reach title game
The women’s team from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) stormed into their second consecutive Olympic handball final, and a rematch with France, with a 27-26 victory over Norway in their semifinal at the Yoyogi National Stadium.
The Russians, competing as representatives of their national Olympic committee ROC without their flag or anthem due to doping sanctions, took a 14-11 halftime lead against Norway. The two-time Olympic champions Norwegians staged a furious comeback, narrowing the deficit to two goals with two minutes left.
But the Russians endured waves of pressure in the final seconds to hold on for the victory and remain on course to retain their title.
Norway will face Sweden for the bronze medal.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.