Brazil's goalkeeper Chana Masson reacts after a save in their women's handball quarterfinals match against Norway at the Copper Box venue during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 7, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Marko Djurica)
Olympic women's handball champions Norway produced a stirring second-half fight back against Brazil on Tuesday to win the first quarter-final 21-19.
The Beijing gold medalists, who are also reigning world and European champions, trailed 13-9 at half time but swept past their inexperienced South American opponents to set up a semi-final against either South Korea or Russia on Thursday.
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Beijing 2008 runners-up Russia and bronze medalists South Korea clash at 1600 GMT after Croatia meet Spain (1230), the winners of that game to face the victor of France against debutants Montenegro in the day's last quarter-final at 1930.
Norway fell to a 15-9 deficit early in the second half and only got their noses in front again with just shy of seven minutes left on the clock, Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren firing the Scandinavians ahead.
Brazil hit straight back but Camilla Herrem weaved in from the left flank around goalkeeper Chana Masson to fire the ball into an empty net, restoring Norway's lead at 20-19.
They never looked back, Koren scoring the final goal.
Coach Thorir Hergeirsson remained calm throughout.
"If the coach gets stressed the players get stressed," the Icelander said. "We know if we find our concept we are hard to beat."
Norway had been lackluster in the group stages but came alive in the knockout format, the friendly knuckle-touching of the preliminary matches long forgotten as players regularly grappled with each other.
"The players have been a little bit stressed with all the expectations, though that's normal. We have not been on the gas but on the brake," said Hergeirsson.
Counterpart Morten Soubak was left regretting a 10-minute period in the second half when Brazil, within sight of a first Olympic handball medal, went without scoring.
"We have very experienced players. It was the fact we could not organize our attack to get through the defense," the Dane said.