For a sport whose advocates often claim it is the world’s second most popular behind football, handball is largely anonymous in English-speaking countries. But just because handball has not managed to crack the American or British sports market does not mean it is not massive elsewhere. Handball betting is incredibly popular throughout Europe, and the best sportsbooks provide a range of markets to suit European bettors.
Handball started out as an outdoor game and it was field handball that made it on to the program for the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games, the event infamous for Adolf Hitler’s use of sport to promote his German government and ideals of racial supremacy. Germany won every game to clinch the gold medal.
The International Handball Federation was established in 1946 and, for the next decade or so, field handball and indoor handball enjoyed roughly equal levels of support. Field handball was particularly popular in German-speaking nations, while those in the Nordic region preferred indoor handball. By the time that handball regained its place as an Olympic Games sport, the indoor version was dominant.
Betting on handball is as easy as turning on your computer and logging on to any bookmaker servicing European punters. While the results of the European club handball tournaments indicate that the domestic leagues in Germany and Spain are the best around, the competitions in several European countries are of a sufficiently high quality that bookmakers are happy to compile and trade markets on them. There are excellent leagues operating throughout Scandinavia and handball is a rare team sport in which the betting turnover on women’s matches is similar to that on men’s games.
Most bookmakers frame handball betting markets with and without the draw option, as well as offering handicap lines to enliven what may otherwise be one-sided betting heats.
Handball is a very high-scoring sport. Indeed, there is a rule that enables referees to penalize teams for what is known as passive play. The laws compel sides to play an attacking game, which makes for a good spectacle and increases the excitement of handball betting. Bear that in mind when betting on total goals. Below are some of the best online sportsbooks for betting on handball.
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Every four years handball is part of the Olympic Games and every two years – at least since 1993 when the cycle was changed – handball has its own world championship event.
Since handball rejoined the Olympic Games program in its indoor guise in 1972, teams representing countries that no longer exist have enjoyed the most success. Yugoslavia won gold twice (1972 and 1984), the Soviet Union triumphed three times (1976, 1988 and 1992) and East Germany prevailed in 1980. France has won the last two Olympic Games titles and only one side from outside Europe has won a medal. South Korea crashed the European party in 1988 when it delighted its home supporters by picking up the silver medal.
At world championship level, France has won the last two crowns as well, taking its tally to four – the same as Romania and Sweden. European countries have completely dominated affairs, winning every available medal. Egypt and Tunisia are the only non-European teams to reach the semi-finals. Both African sides ended in fourth spot.
There are several international club handball tournaments, the pick of which is the European Handball Federation-run Champions League which has more than 50 years of history. Barcelona has won the competition eight times, including five seasons on the bounce in the 1990s and 2000s.
The United Kingdom has not been bitten by the handball betting bug – as far as most Britons are concerned, handball is something that results in a free kick or penalty in football – but it is a very big deal in most continental Europe countries.
Representatives from eight nations – Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland – convened to form the International Handball Federation just after the Second World War and betting on handball, naturally, is popular in all of those countries today.
Other European nations that have taken handball to their hearts are Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Further afield, Brazil, China, Egypt, Japan, South Korea and Tunisia appear in the top 25 of the International Handball Federation’s overall ranking table.
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