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Date: 12/19/2013

Neither Serbia nor Poland have ever reached a semi-final of a Women’s World Championship before. Now the hosts and the biggest surprise team of the competition face in the first semi-final on Friday (18:00 hrs. local time).

Poland had eliminated Sweden in the qualification and big names like Romania and France in the knock-out stage, Serbia are carried on the wings of their frenetic spectators and hope to break their attendance world record of 16.500 fans from the quarter-final, when they eliminated Norway.


Poland: Incredible team spirit and power

After the victorious quarter-final against former World Champion France, the Polish players did not want to leave the court. The emotions were simply overwhelming. For the first time in the history a Polish women´s team made it to the semi-final of a World Championship. And how they did it! By an impressive performance they beat the favored team from France by 22:21 and made it sensationally to the medal round. After the end of the match even their opponent France could not realize what had happened before. „This is the greatest success for Polish women´s handball ever”, said Danish born coach Kim Rasmussen: „And I still cannot get it. Maybe tomorrow I will understand.”

Since six years the Polish team had not been qualified for a World Championship. So it was already surprising that they made it to the quarter-final. After a tough struggle the Polish side were able to beat the favoured Romanians and even improved in the match against France. “This semi-final is a historic moment in Polish women’s handball”, Kim Rasmussen said.

The Danish born coach of the Polish team was very glad about the performance of his players. For years his side are trying hard to step out of the shadow of the more successful Polish men´s handball team. But by eliminating 2010 EURO silver medalist Sweden in the qualification for this World Championship, the Polish team set an important sign to prove that they are back. Asked for the key for success Rasmussen said: „We have an incredible team spirit. And additionally our defence was very impressive in both knockout matches. And we are physically in a very fresh shape.”

And although Poland are still the underdog in the next match against the more experienced Serbs it seems as if the way of the Polish team did possibly not reach the end. The federation is now hoping for some positive effects for the women’s team. „I hope that in the near future we can put some things on the way,” Rasmussen said. „I hope we have increased the interest with our performances in terms of sponsors and fans.”


Serbia: Poker face Boskovic hopes for a full house on Friday
It was Wednesday, exactly at 21:43 hrs. local time, when the Kombank-Arena in Belgrade seemed to burst. Host Serbia were in the medal round – a sensation. Coach Sasa Boskovic was overwhelmed by emotions: “A great day for my team, a great success for handball in Serbia.”

And he congratulated the supporters. “This was a historical victory. 16.500 spectators mean a new world record for indoor matches in the history of women’s handball and we are a part of this piece of history.”

Attended by this record number, Serbia turned a clear backlog into a clear win, defeated the defending champion and Olympic champion Norway, and reached the round of the best four teams. The victory was also a result of the clever preparation. “We have no chance – and we must take advantage of that”, Boskovic had said after the eighth-final over Korea. “Just when the audience helps us, we have a little chance.”

Now the host will face the surprising Polish team and the Serbian coach again acts in understatement. “Poland have a great team. I saw them before the World Championships started. We are not the favourite”, Boskovic explained. But nothing will be the same as before after the match against Norway. Now all eyes are on Belgrade. Serbia is in handball-hysteria.  And after 16.500 spectators at the quarter-final the Kombank-Arena is supposed to be sold out on Friday.

Serbia maybe takes part at the next world record match. Pivot Dragana Cvijic, awarded as best player of the quarter-final is happy about the situation. “I was surprised. There is no more pressure on our shoulders. In contrast: It feels excellent and it is an honour and a great pleasure to play for so many people”, Cvijic said.

Coach Boskovic had again shown his poker face. “It is too early to speak about Poland”, he said. “First of all I have to congratulate my team. We have wonderful players, wonderful mothers, and wonderful people in our team. When I started my job as a national coach, I build-up the team from this point of view. Some players came back, some arrived newly in the team. But now we’re on our way to be a great team.”