Powerhouses collide in Slovenia 2022 semi-finals
01 Jul. 2022
Only four teams are still alive in the fight for a medal at the 23rd edition of the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, as the fight for a medal hots up when Netherlands face Norway and Sweden clash with Hungary in the semi-finals at Slovenia 2022.
The last four standing teams – all coming from Europe – have lost a single game between them in the tournament, but Hungary are the only team to ride a six-game winning streak into the final.
With the margin for error slimmer than ever, expect the remaining sides to give it their all, with the winners from 2010 and 2012, Norway and Sweden, challenging the reigning champions, Hungary for the gold medal. Netherlands are only for the first time in the semi-finals, but they have one of the top players in the competition, Kim Molenaar, who is the likely favourite to secure the top goal scorer award.
13 other matches are scheduled for Friday in three arenas in Celje and Lasko, with the final standings shaping up before the final four matches on Sunday, due to take place in the Zlatorog Arena.
- Netherlands vs Norway (18:15 CEST, Zlatorog Arena, Celje)
- Sweden vs Hungary (20:30 CEST, Zlatorog Arena, Celje)
For the first time in history, three of the four qualified teams for the semi-finals are coming in undefeated, while the other one, Sweden, only conceded a loss in the last match of the main round against Netherlands. Therefore, these semi-finals projects as very balanced, despite the average margin of win for the qualified teams in the quarter-finals being 10.25 goals per game.
After failing to qualify for the Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2021 last year and being subject to a Qualification Europe tournament to progress to Slovenia 2022, Netherlands have registered a remarkable comeback and qualified for the semi-finals of the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship for the first time in history. Led by a superb left back in Kim Molenaar, who scored 48 goals in six matches and has the largest number of goals scored in the tournament from the 9-metre line, 23, the Dutch side is riding a six-game unbeaten streak, their largest in history.
While Norway have scored two goals less than the Netherlands – 196 as opposed to 198 – at Slovenia 2022, they have conceded 157, 16 more than their opponents, who have improved their defence under coach Ricardo Clarijs, who is assisted by the Netherlands senior women’s national team’s coach, Per Johansson.
The two sides have also met three weeks ago in a friendly game at the Scandinavian Open in Sweden, with Netherlands taking a 30:29 win against Norway after Kim Molenaar scored 13 goals.
In the second semi-final, which will also take place in the Zlatorog Arena in Celje, Hungary are facing Sweden, aiming to extend their winning streak at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship to 15 matches, as their last loss in the competition came in 2016.
The top two attacks in the competition, Hungary (214 scored goals) and Sweden (206 scored goals) measure up in what seems to be a battle for the ages, with the winner being rewarded with a place in the final. While Hungary have qualified for the final three times – winning one and losing the other two – Sweden are only for the third time in the semi-finals, winning one, in 2012, and losing another, in 1991.
Hungary will face a Scandinavian side for the second match in a row, after clinching a 30:26 win against Denmark on Thursday, after being down at the break for the first time at Slovenia 2022. Sweden have secured a 36:24 win against Germany, proving once again how experience can be key in such tournaments.
But Hungary also have plenty of experience, with this side winning the Women’s 17 EHF EURO in 2019 and the Women’s 19 EHF EURO in 2021 without dropping a single game, as Szilard Kiss’ side hopes to finish the tournament with the same immaculate performance.
Placement Round 5-8
- Angola vs Switzerland (18:15 CEST, Golovec Arena, Celje)
- Germany vs Denmark (20:30 CEST, Golovec Arena, Celje)
Losing a quarter-final at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship is always devastating, but there is no room for complacency, as the teams that failed to make the top 4 are still clashing for a better placement in the final standings at Slovenia 2022. When Angola and Switzerland meet in the Golovec Arena in Celje, both of them will be trying to enhance their performance in the tournament, after having already secured their best-ever finish in the competition.
Switzerland’s main issues in the 20:37 loss against Norway were the lack of depth and experience, with six crucial players out due to Covid-19. They ran out of steam in the second half and only had one goalkeeper on the scoresheet, Aline Strebel, as they will also be underdogs against a plucky Angola side, who already secured wins against European sides like the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovenia.
In the other match between the teams who failed to progress to the semi-finals, Denmark will bring once again to the fore their superb defence when they face Germany, a wounded team after a painful loss against Sweden, 24:36. There will definitely be room for improvement for Andre Fuhr’s side, as their banged-up players try to recover in time for the match against the Scandinavian side.
Placement Match 9/10
- Japan vs Montenegro (14:00 CEST, Zlatorog Arena Celje)
Only six teams have conceded fewer goals than Montenegro in the tournament, as Igor Markovic’s side are definitely one of the best-coached teams in the competition in that aspect. Using an aggressive approach, seven-on-six in attack and even 4-2 in defence throughout games, Montenegro always frustrated their opponents, as their worst loss in the tournament came against Norway, by only six goals. On the other hand, a win on Friday would see Japan finish on the ninth place, their second-best finish at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, after securing the eighth place 25 years ago.
Placement Match 11/12
- Czech Republic vs Croatia (16:00 CEST, Golovec Arena, Celje)
Croatia’s tournament would have looked totally different were it not for the 21:22 loss against Switzerland in the preliminary round. After conceding their third loss at Slovenia 2022, against Montenegro on Thursday, they will look to finish on a high, by clinching a win against the Czech Republic, but they will still finish outside of the top 10 for the first time since 2014. The Czech team finished 11th already in the tournament twice, in 1995 and 2014 and are still boasting the top goal scorer of the competition, left back Charlotte Cholevova, the only player to hit the 50-goal mark at Slovenia 2022.
Placement Match 13/14
- France vs Slovenia (16:00 CEST, Zlatorog Arena Celje)
France will be looking to end on a high a disappointing tournament for them when they face hosts Slovenia in the battle for the 13th place at the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship. “Les Bleuettes” have only finished worse in the competition once, on the 17th place in 2005, therefore they will likely use the experience, as most of their players are currently in the French League, to secure a win as they leave Slovenia 2022. On the other side, the hosts have just broken a three-game losing skid and could tie their best-ever finish in the competition with a win. France have both a better attack – over three goals per game scored more than Slovenia – and a better defence, so they are favoured to win the match.
Placement Match 15/16
- Tunisia vs Egypt (14:30 CEST, Tri Lilije Hall, Lasko)
The spirits will surely run high for both sides in the African derby, as Egypt are certain of finishing on the highest place ever at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, while Tunisia want to overcome their rivals, after finishing a place lower than them at the CAHB African Women's Junior Handball Championship in February. Despite a slew of Covid-19 cases in the team, Tunisia stood their ground on Thursday against Slovenia but eventually lost, 25:28, as their lack of depth could be their main undoing. Egypt also aim to turn things around, after losing three games in a row against European opponents.
Placement Match 17/18
- Romania vs Poland (12:00 CEST, Zlatorog Arena, Celje)
Only two teams stay in contention for the President's Cup, and both of them represent Europe. On Thursday, Romania celebrated a victory in a nerve-wracking match against Slovakia, as Sarah Aida Darie scored the winner 40 seconds from the final whistle. Meanwhile, Poland also earned a hard-fought victory, making a comeback after trailing against the Republic of Korea at half-time. So the final of the President's Cup is expected to be tight and exciting, with both sides determined to win the consolation prize.
Placement Match 19/20
- Slovakia vs Republic of Korea (12:00 CEST, Golovec Arena, Celje)
These two teams lost a chance to win the President's Cup following their defeats on Thursday, and now they will compete only for the 19th place. Obviously, both were looking for more – Korea had never finished outside the top 10 in their previous 19 participations at this level, while Slovakia, who made a return to the IHF Women's Junior World Championship after a 23-year break, narrowly missed a main round spot. Still, both teams would like to end on a high, so they will have something to fight for.
Placement Match 21/22
- Lithuania vs Brazil (10:30 CEST, Tri Lilije Hall, Lasko)
Lithuania, who returned to this level after a 17-year break, suffered three straight defeats in the group stage, but then improved and went on to earn three consecutive wins in the President's Cup. A commanding 41:27 win against Guinea gave them an opportunity to fight for the 21st place with Brazil. In turn, the South Americans had never finished below the 15th place in their 14 previous participations, so now they will take their lowest ever position.
Placement Match 23/24
- Guinea vs Austria 10:0 (withdrawal)
As Austria have withdrawn from the tournament due to the COVID-19 cases in their squad, Guinea are certain to finish 23rd. For the Africans, who made a debut at this level, this is quite a decent result and a stepping stone for the future, and their maiden win at this level against India is something to be remembered.
Placement Match 25/26
- India vs Argentina (14:30 CEST, Tri Lilije Hall, Lasko)
The debutants from India can be already satisfied with their performance in the tournament, as they have earned two victories, against Iran and Chile. Obviously, they would be happy to claim a third win against Argentina, but the South American team has much more experience and will be the favourites. Overall, the Argentines can hardly be happy with their performance at Slovenia 2022, but yesterday they ended their four-match losing run, comfortably defeating Kazakhstan.
Placement Match 27/28
- Chile vs Kazakhstan (16:30 CEST, Tri Lilije Hall, Lasko)
Chile's only win in the tournament took place in the group phase when they defeated Mexico. In the President's Cup, the South American team have lost three consecutive games, but now they want to end this unlucky run and beat Kazakhstan in their last match. However, the Kazakhs are determined to do the same – and their only win at Slovenia 2022 is more recent, as they beat the USA in the President's Cup.
Placement Match 29/30
- Islamic Republic of Iran vs Italy (18:30 CEST, Tri Lilije Hall, Lasko)
Italy tried to fight hard in many matches of the tournament, and after five straight defeats, they finally managed to win on Thursday against the USA (36:17), so they will now compete for the 29th place. The Italians will face the debutants from Iran, who struggled against more experienced rivals but earned their maiden win at this level against Mexico in style, 46:26.
Placement Match 31/32
- Mexico vs United States of America (20:30 CEST, Tri Lilije Hall, Lasko)
Only two North American teams have lost all their matches at Slovenia 2022 so far – and now Mexico and the USA will try to avoid finishing last-placed. The Mexican are seen as favourites, but the team from the United States also want to end the tournament on a high, so they will try to fight.