GB handball boosted by narrow loss to world champions Russia

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

Great Britain handball captain Lynn McCaffertyexternal-link insists opponents will start taking notice of her side after their narrow 24-16 loss to Russia.

The world champions were expected to ease through the match at Crystal Palace on Saturday but were surprised by a resilient British team.

"The handball world won't take us for granted now," said McCafferty.

"We celebrated like a win when it was a loss but we're happy with the progress we're making ahead of the Olympics."

Both the Russia captain and head coachexternal-link were impressed by the British team and praised their spirit but next year's Games will still be a major test for a squad that was only formed in 2005.

"We respect the GB team because they showed great determination and, although handball isn't big in your country, I think it will continue to grow," said captain Liudmila Bodnieva.

"It's difficult for the team as they are just starting together and I think they need a few stronger and bigger players. But they are a very good team and have amazing spirit, which could be important."

Russia head coach Yevgeni Trefilov was more optimistic. She added: "They are already in the Olympic Games where there are always surprises and it could happen [for Great Britain]."

Britain's hopes of reaching the 2012 European Championshipsexternal-link in the Netherlands have been dented by successive defeats by Montenegroexternal-link (34-18) and Russia - but McCafferty feels they are progressing.

"The Montenegro match gave us a bit of a shake in that we proved we can actually compete but couldn't quite finish it off," said McCafferty.

"We were better against Russia and, every time we play at home, we seem to get that extra 10%.

"It's fantastic when you have the crowd with you and it gives you a massive lift, which hopefully it will next year."

Those sentiments were echoed by women's handball performance director Lorraine Brownexternal-link.

"To only go down by eight goals to the world champions, nine months away from the Olympic Games, bodes well for the future," said Brown.

"We have got to get more games, use those eight goals as a benchmark, and keep on improving to ensure we are best prepared for the Olympics."

The team will return to action from 23-27 November in the Olympic test event at the 2012 Handball Arenaexternal-link in the Olympic Park.

Great Britain have targeted a semi-final finish in the competition, which will also feature Austria, Angola, China, Poland and Slovakia.