GB women's handball team beaten

05 August 2012 / 18:13

The curtain came down on Great Britain women's Olympic handball dream after their preliminary stage ended in a 37-14 defeat to Croatia on Sunday afternoon, bringing to a close an amazing six-year journey.

Losses in their opening four matches meant they came into the game knowing they had no chance of progressing to the knock-out phase and while the loss ensured they were whitewashed in the tournament, they can still leave the Copper Box for the last time with their heads held high.

Having only formed in 2006, to be even taking part in the Games was an achievement in itself. And as their involvement in London 2012 comes to an end, they know they have more than played their part in introducing handball to the British public for the first time and are certain to leave a lasting legacy long after the Olympic flame departs the capital.

Some of the players who were in tears were probably induced from the fact that they will not be able to experience the superb Copper Box atmosphere again, and in the wake of Saturday night's incredible scenes at the Olympic Stadium the women were desperate to spread the feelgood factor in front of a buoyant crowd.

But they came up against a tough Croatia side who had won three of their opening four games, though they were not out-played in the opening five minutes with goals from Louise Jukes and birthday girl Kelsi Fairbrother keeping it to 3-2.

Another Jukes effort and a Marie Gerbron penalty kept that deficit to one approaching the midway point of the first half as Team GB were enjoying their most competitive spell of the Games and Gerbron, Fairbrother and Britt Goodwin all missed other chances.

However, Croatia asserted their authority and threw in six successive goals to lead 20-15 after 20 minutes, though the partisan crowd in the Copper Box did not care too much as they raised the roof when they were informed of Andy Murray's gold medal in the tennis.

That became 12 unanswered strikes, but that run was ended by Holly Lam-Moore's goal which left them trailing 17-6 at the half-time interval.

The host nation were able to come out and soak up the atmosphere for the last time after the break and got to play in front of royalty as the Duchess of Cambridge took her seat for the second half. The Duchess was able to cheer efforts from Gerbron and a delightful lob from Zoe van der Weel, while retiring skipper Lynn McCafferty opened her account.

Croatia laid down their marker for the next phase of the competition with a strong finish, though Ewa Palies and Fairbrother strikes raised the roof in the final 10 minutes. Team GB left the court to a reception worthy of gold medal winners, which somehow seemed a fitting reward for their efforts getting here.