Three-time winners Russia made a successful start to their campaign at the International Handball Federation (IHF) World Championships after overcoming Japan 39-29 at the Exponantes - Hall XXL in Nantes.
Victory sees them move joint top of Group A along with hosts France and Norway, who beat 2015 bronze medallists Poland 22-20 today.
Russia raced into a 6-1 lead after six minutes, but following a time-out, Japan forced their way back into the game and were within three points of their opponents by half-time at 18-15
Within 10 minutes of the restart the deficit was down to just one at 25-24 as Japan continued to pile on the pressure.
That was as good as it got for the Asian nation though, with some excellent goalkeeping from Russia’s Vadim Bogdanov giving team-mates Pavel Atman and Timur Dibirov the opportunity to score a flurry of easy goals on the break.
Atman, Dibirov and Daniil Shishkarev finished the game as Russia’s top scorers with six each, helping ensure a 10-goal victory.
"In the first-half, Japan started with their 0-6 defence, and we found the solution easily, but our problem started when they changed to a more aggressive defence," said Russia head coach Dmitri Torgovanov.
"The difference was not much because we took the 10-goal lead in just a few minutes.
"I think that the difference was in our goalkeepers’ performance."
Russia are aiming for a fourth world title having come out on top in 1997, 1993 and 1982, as the Soviet Union.
Norway’s victory over Poland later in the day was settled by two goals from Kristian Bjornsen, who managed five in total.
Espen Lie Hansen led the way for the Norwegians in the goalscoring stakes with six.
In Group B, two-time champions Spain begun their campaign with a 27-21 victory against Iceland at the Arènes de Metz.
Despite missing the influential Raúl Entrerríos, the Spaniards were still too strong for Iceland as Joan Cañellas and David Balaguer top scored with four goals apiece.
Also picking up wins today in Group B were Slovenia and Macedonia against Angola and Tunisia respectively.
Borut Mackovsek and Gasper Marguc top scored for Slovenia on their way to a 42-25 success, while Kiril Lazarov’s 12 goals ultimately proved pivotal for Macedonia as they made a late comeback to triumph 34-40.
Action in France is due to continue tomorrow when the opening matches in Groups C and D are scheduled to take place.
The home nation, 31-16 winners over Brazil yesterday, are also due to play their second Group A match with Japan providing the opposition.