A thrilling ride from start to finish, handball is one of the most technical team sports in the world. Don’t know much about it? Check out our beginners’ guide to one of the most exciting spectacles at Rio 2016…

London 2012 OG, Handball Women - Qualifications, Brazil (BRA) - Great Britain (GBR), Nina HEGLUND (GBR), Eduarda AMORIM (BRA), Lyn BYL (GBR).

Picking it up

Handball is extremely hard to master, but it’s an easy sport for the spectator to understand. Two teams of seven, made up of six outfield players plus a goalkeeper, have to throw the ball into the opposition’s goal.

Going way back

There’s evidence that a version of handball was played more than 2,000 years ago in Ancient Greece. However, the modern sport developed between the mid-19th and early 20th century in Germany and Scandinavia, and remains massively popular there today.

A global game

Handball is big news all over the world. According to the International Handball Federation, more than 27 million people play in nearly two million teams around the planet.

A thrill a minute

You might see as many as 60 goals in a handball match – an average of one goal every minute. At the Olympic Games London 2012, the French men’s team beat Great Britain 44-15 – just one goal short of the Olympic record, set when the Austrian women’s team beat Brazil 45-26 back in 2000.

On a hat-trickLondon 2012 OG, Handball Men - Qualifications, Croatia (CRO) - Denmark (DEN). Marko KOPLJAR (CRO), Ivano BALIC (CRO), Nikolaj MARKUSSEN (DEN) and Mikkel HANSEN.

Teams from no fewer than 10 countries have won Olympic handball gold. The French men’s team and the Norwegian women’s team will be defending their titles in Rio, having each won back-to-back gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

Fast company

The world’s very best handball players can throw the ball at speeds of more than 120kmh (75mph) – faster than the speed limit on highways in Brazil.

Measuring up

Handball is played on a court measuring 40m by 20m. The goals are three metres wide and two metres high, slightly smaller than a hockey goal.

Coming in from the cold

The first Olympic handball tournament was held in 1936, when the game was played on grass by teams of 11. Ever since it returned to the Games in 1972, Olympic handball has been an indoor sport.