June 2, 2008 / 12:26 PM / 11 years ago

Four former world champions book Olympic places

PARIS (Reuters) - Former world champions France, Spain, Croatia and Russia booked places for the Beijing Olympics men’s handball competition after finishing in the top two in qualification tournaments at the weekend.

Russia's players celebrate after defeating Japan during their men's Olympic Games qualification handball match in the Adriatic port of Zadar June 1, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Twelve teams were battling it out for six places in tournaments in Paris, Wroclaw and Zadar from Friday to Sunday to join the six teams who had already qualified.

Hosts China, world champions Germany, PanAmerican champions Brazil, European champions Denmark and African champions Egypt were exempted from the weekend’s competitions.

Four-times world champions Sweden, who also won three silver Olympic medals from 1992 to 2000, will not go to Beijing after finishing third in Wroclaw’s tournament following a 29-25 defeat to Iceland.

Iceland qualified along with Poland, who were runners-up at last year’s world championships and snatched a spot with a 28-26 victory against unfancied Argentina.

France, bronze medalists at the 1992 Barcelona Games, won the Paris tournament through a 28-24 victory over 2005 world champions Spain, who finished second after beating Tunisia on Sunday.

Olympic champions Croatia, and Russia, who won the gold medal in Sydney eight years ago, went through in Zadar’s tournament ahead of Algeria and Japan.

Croatia took top spot thanks to a 26-24 defeat of Russia on Saturday.

In the women’s competition, France, Germany, Hungary, South Korea, Romania and Sweden clinched the six qualifying spots in March.

They joined organizers China, world champions Russia, and continent champions Angola, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Norway.

The Olympic tournaments will run from August 9 to 24 in Beijing.

Editing by John Mehaffey

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