Olympic Games - Second Olympic handball loss for GB men

Round-up: Team GB men’s handball coach Dragan Djukic wants his players to stick to the plan to claim a win against Argentina after watching his side slip to a second defeat at the Olympics, losing 41-19 to Sweden.

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Olympic Games - Second Olympic handball loss for GB men
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Britain's Christopher McDermott (C) struggles to get past Sweden's defence in their men's handball Preliminaries Group A match at the Copper Box during the Olympics (Reuters)

Djukic’s troops were well beaten by the three-time Olympic silver medallists at the Copper Box.

But, while he believes that Argentina will be a tough prospect, Djukic expects his side to run them close if they play to their potential.

“Our first target is Argentina,” said Djukic, whose side lost to France in their opening match. “They are good team, a young team like us, but we still believe if we play our best we can be much closer.

“I want to forget the first half as soon as possible. We prepared a lot of tactics but it was not functional like our plan. I believe we can play faster and with better support of the goalkeeper."

Mark Hawkins got Great Britain off and running when he stepped off the wing and scored with delightful looped finish into the net.

Djukic’s side showed good effort, but Sweden were exceptionally quick on the break, leaving goalkeepers Bobby White and Jesper Parker – who were being alternated – exposed.

Old friends Chris McDermott and Ciaran Williams combined well to give the former his first goal of the Games, as Great Britain showed flashes of real brilliance.

But they were being forced into conceding penalties by Sweden’s fast passing and physicality across the line and they headed into the break comfortably 24-10 up.

Great Britain, if lacking in quality and experience, showed real determination and hard work as they fought hard to keep Sweden’s score down.

They tried to copy their opponent’s fast-break style, which has proved so successful, but long passing from their own court often failed to find their targets.

The hosts’ defence picked up as they tried intimidate their more experienced opponents, and even scored four without reply as Sweden’s own suspensions started to bite.

Great Britain kept trying to break the 20-goal barrier, but were still being picked off on the fast break by Sweden, who comfortably saw the game out.

Playmaker Williams revealed Djukic pulled no punches at half-time and insists the team must improve if they are to make any progress at the Games.

He said: “We were really disappointed. There were a few harsh words spoken at half-time. We spoke about the first 20 minutes from the France game – that’s the level we want to play at.

“If you make a slow start you get punished at this level. The next game is crucial – we want to win. We have not come here to get beaten by 20 goals every game.”

Meanwhile, emotions were on display as Croatia beat Balkan neighbours Serbia 31-23 to lead group B having won their opening two games.

Croatia coach Slavko Goluza feigned to kick one of his players and team member Ivano Balic threw a towel over his head as Serbia pegged a goal back but seconds later the pair were bouncing around celebrating to entertain another lively Copper Box crowd.

Feelings can run high when the countries meet but add in the pressure of Olympic competition, where Croatia are seeking to become the first men's team to win three gold medals, and reactions become unpredictable.

France fans chanted "On est chez nous" (We are at home) and their team responded with in a 32-20 win over the South American newcomers to top Group A with four points.

Croatia are Group B pacesetters, also with two wins from two and Denmark lie second after they pipped 2008 bronze medallists Spain 24-23 in the dying stages.

Ivan Cupic of Croatia, the only player on the court under 1.80 metres who laughed as he referred to himself as "small", said his countrymen often make a lot of noise.

"There's always something happening on our bench. We're from Croatia, it's like that," he told Reuters.

Cupic excelled in the land of giants by converting a series of darting runs around his enormous but less nimble opponents.

"I got lucky today. In the next match somebody else will get lucky," he said modestly after scoring eight goals.

"I need to be fast. If they catch me I'm dead," he joked.

European championship runners-up Serbia have lost both their games and are facing an early flight home.

Serbia captain Momir Ilic smacked his fists together in anger on the bench in the first half, joined simultaneously around the Copper Box by supporters and even journalists, who slammed their hands against their wooden work desks.

Coach Veselin Vukovic was in an equally gloomy mood.

"It's disappointing my team was not running. This is the problem we have to discuss now," he told Reuters as his team slinked past in silence.

"Playing like this we have no chance," he said of Serbia's must-win game against Denmark, who beat them in the European championship final in January.

Hungary beat South Korea 22-19 earlier in the day and winning coach Lajos Mocsai staying long after his team had disappeared to sign supporter flags and pose for photos.

Iceland kicked the day off by hammering Tunisia in the first half, described as one of the best coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson had seen in his 23 years on the sidelines. The Beijing silver medallists won 32-22.

Denmark and Spain went toe-to-toe in the day's fifth game during a frantic and physical battle that Michael Knudsen won for the European champions in the final three seconds when he fired past on-song goalkeeper Jose Hombrados Ibanez.

World player of the year Mikkel Hansen booted the ball into his own net on the siren in celebration as his team formed an elated huddle. Spain shook their heads in bitter disappointment.

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