Brazil's Ana Paula Belo, from left, Brazil's Fernanda Franca Da Silva and Brazil's Eduarda Taleska celebrate after defeating Norway during the women's preliminary handball match between Norway and Brazil at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Braz
Matthias Schrader
August 07, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Host nation Brazil is off to an excellent start in women's handball, stunning reigning Olympic and world champion Norway 31-28 Saturday in the tournament's opening game.

Ana Paula Rodrigues had 12 goals for Brazil, which was the 2013 world champion but has never won an Olympic handball medal.

Brazil took the lead early in the first half at the Future Arena and held on after Norway tied it 18-18 in the second half. As the arena filled with passionate home fans for the morning game, five straight goals and big saves from goalkeeper Mayssa Raquel Pessoa took Brazil's lead from 22-21 to 27-21.

''Every player from Brazil played very good - this is what I think. Played together,'' said Brazil's Alexandra do Nascimento, who scored twice. She said Brazil had learned to keep its composure after its loss to Norway in the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals. Brazil had led at halftime of that game.

''Now Brazil knows well this situation and if you make one mistake, this is one goal for Norway. Brazil today played very slow but intelligently,'' she said. Even though the Future Arena was not quite full, loud support from the fans was ''very, very positive,'' Do Nascimento added.

The group stage runs through Aug. 14 and Norway is still likely to qualify for the knockout stages as one of the top four teams of the six-country Group A.

''We have to be more tough and the defense is the thing we have to be better on,'' Norway's Emilie Hegh Arntzen said. ''(Rodrigues) was very good today and we know that she is an important player on the Brazilian team. It was tough to stop her today. If we meet them again, she won't be scoring so many goals.''

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