The national handball team, through to the second phase of the men’s World Championship in Tunisia, reserved for 12 of the competition’s 24 starters, began its campaign with a 37-29 loss yesterday against Slovenia. The 12 qualifiers have been divided into two groups. Greece, drawn in Group 1, is now scheduled to meet Russia today and the Czech Republic on Thursday. Also included in the group are France and Tunisia, which Greece confronted in its first-round play. Those results, a win against France and a draw against Tunisia, also stand for the second phase, meaning that, after yesterday’s loss, Greece has a win, draw and loss in the tournament’s second round. The top two sides from both groups advance to the semifinals on Saturday for a place in Sunday’s final. «It was clear, after the first five or six minutes, that we hadn’t tuned into the game. I felt as if we were already dead. I don’t know if the boys ever believed they could stage a comeback, as they did in previous games,» said Greece’s Swedish coach Ulf Schefert. «You can’t win when the only thing you’ve got on the court are your shoes… we weren’t tired and we had no injuries, but, somewhere along the line, the players lost their concentration. Maybe, I too, failed in this department. We’ve got to be wired up throughout games, but today [yesterday] we were like… iced coffee,» added Schefert, with a dose of humor. Schefert was hired to prepare Greece for the Athens Olympics. Greece ended an impressive sixth. Back to yesterday’s game, Greece was bombarded by a determined Slovenia side from the opening minutes of the game. By the encounter’s eighth minute, the Slovenians managed to build a 7-2 lead, a gap which they virtually maintained for the half-time score, 17-13. Greece opened strongly in the second half with three consecutive goals to narrow the deficit to 18-16. But the Slovenians remained steady to gradually develop a commanding lead. Twelve minutes into the 30-minute half, Slovenia led 27-19. Six minutes later, the Slovenians had established a 10-point lead, the game’s widest gap, with a 32-23 score, and were never threatened during the game’s remainder. Greece player Nikos Grammatikos said the national team went into the encounter believing it would be an easy match. «We’ve now got to give our best to win, no matter what, against the Czech Republic, and offer our utmost against the Russians,» said Grammatikos. Russia, which won the bronze medal at last summer’s Athens Olympics, has made a considerable number of changes to its lineup.