Five talking points after the conclusion of the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship

04 Jul. 2022

Five talking points after the conclusion of the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship

6,254 goals were scored in the 114 matches played at the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship between 22 June and 3 July, capping off 10 exciting days of handball with surprising results and magnificent comebacks, delivered by some of the players who will star on the big stages in the future. With plenty of powerhouses at the start, it was Norway who took the gold medal, in emphatic fashion, with a 31:29 win in the final against Hungary, as the Netherlands finished third, taking a 31:20 win against Sweden in the bronze-medal match.

Team strength lifts Norway past opponents at Slovenia 2022

Norway finished ninth at the Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2021 last year in Slovenia and while they are still a traditional powerhouse, also at this level of age, they were not considered to be one of the heavy favourites in this tournament. However, with a great team spirit, amazing depth in the squad, a strong defence and a top goalkeeper in June Cecilie Krogh, Norway delivered a nearly flawless tournament, winning seven games and drawing another, in the preliminary round against France, 34:34, on their way to the second title in history.

It was a win marked by consistency throughout the tournament, an ingredient hard to find at this level, where ups and downs are normal, as Norway’s top scorers, back Maja Sæteren and line player Kaja Rohne, scored 34 goals each, enough for placing 28th and 29th in the top scorer standings at the end of the competition, despite playing a game more than 17 players who finished ahead of them. Their amazing depth was also underlined by the fact that the All-star left back at Slovenia 2022, Martine Karigstad Andersen, the player with the second-largest number of assists in the competition, 28, missed the final against Hungary due to a knee injury.

The Scandinavian side confirmed their amazing run of form at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, as they now are the only team to have featured in at least 15 editions to always finish in the top 10. They also secured a berth in the final in three of the last six editions, winning two of them. With such a strong pipeline of talent ready to break through, Norway’s future looks set, especially as the current generation that dominates the international women’s senior competitions has also won the gold medal at the 2010 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship. 

Hungary see streak over

To understand just how difficult Norway had it in the final, a number can really tell the story. The previous champions of the competition, Hungary, had won their previous 15 games, a streak that was only put together in the last 22 years by Russia, who won the competition in 2003 and 2005 without dropping a single game. Hungary were close to securing the same feature, yet their Scandinavian hat-trick failed to materialise when they conceded a painful loss against Norway, despite being two goals up, 28:26, with six minutes to go in the final.

However, this golden generation of Hungary, that won the Women’s 17 EHF EURO 2019 and the Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2021, is still a marvel to watch. Centre back Blanka Kajdon, who was named in the All-star Team, had an excellent outing against Norway, scoring eight times, in spite of some costly misses at the end, including the last shot, which improved Norway’s chances of winning. With plenty of talent at their disposal, Hungary will surely bounce back in the future at this age category, but it will be interesting to see just how players like Kajdon, Johanna Farkas, Petra Koronczai or Borbala Besszer will make the transition to senior handball. They might have missed a true shooter in their squad, but this Hungary squad was really special and must be proud of their achievements, despite missing out on the gold medal at Slovenia 2022.

Molenaar and Netherlands cap off dream tournament

Like in almost every edition of the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, there is a surprise package and this time it was the Netherlands’ turn to bring some spice to the competition. After failing to qualify for the Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2021, the Netherlands went back to the drawing board, sealed their spot to Slovenia 2022 via a Qualification Tournament and delivered a performance for the ages, sealing their first-ever medal in the competition.

As their HandballAcademie project continues to yield good results, a new name has been put into the spotlight and it is Kim Molenaar who earned the plaudits at Slovenia 2022, where she became the first Dutch player to be named the MVP of the competition after a stellar tournament. Netherlands lost only a single game throughout the competition, the semi-final against Norway – and it was also thanks to Molenaar’s amazing performances. The 20-year-old left back, who made her senior national team debut this spring, became the top scorer of the tournament, with 62 goals in eight matches, boasting more assists than Czech Republic’s Charlotte Cholevova, who also scored 62 goals. 

History written by Angola

No African team had previously finished in the top eight at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, with their best result being the ninth place secured by Nigeria back in 1989. However, a plucky outsider, who few knew what to expect from, Angola took the competition by storm and finished sixth, just a few months after winning the CAHB African Women’s Junior Championship, in a hard-fought 18:17 victory against Egypt. Wins against European sides like the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Switzerland helped Angola deliver their best-ever result in the competition, having never finished higher than 11th in the competition. Their four-win tally was also their best-ever at the IHF Women’s Junior World Championship.

It is a testament of the hard work by Angola and their coach, José Chuma, who brought an ecstatic type of handball to Slovenia 2022, fiery, aggressive and with a lot of pace, that dazzled opponents at times. Centre back Stelvia Pascoal was their top scorer with 38 goals, but right back and line player Liliane Mario, who scored 25 goals in the tournament, was also great to watch. Remember the names, as Angola might be a difficult team to play against at future senior events.

Otherworldly achievement by India’s Bhawana

Three teams – India, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Guinea – made their debuts at the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, and there were things to learn from all sides. Guinea claimed the highest finish from the three, the 23rd place, as India finished 26th and the Islamic Republic of Iran secured rank 30. Guinea earned two wins and a draw, India had two wins, while Iran failed to secure a win, earning a single draw, against Guinea in their maiden game, in the first competitive outing for the three sides in such a tournament. However, India’s back Bhawana was close to an astonishing performance, finishing third in the top scorer standings with 58 goals, only four shy of Kim Molenaar and Charlotte Cholevova. Her average of 8.29 goals per game was also third in the competition, as she could easily become a role model for young players trying to also write history for India.

On the other hand, United States of America made their comeback in the competition for the first time since 1981, winning one game, 28:26 in the 31/32 Placement Match against Mexico. After heavy defeats, including a 5:46 loss against eventual runners-up Hungary, the USA side understood the requirements of the competition and vowed to come back stronger at the next editions.