Group IV: Sweden look to continue winning run

20 Jan. 2021

Group IV: Sweden look to continue winning run

The best three teams of preliminary round Groups G and H form main round Group IV, which will throw off with three matches on Wednesday. 

North Macedonia vs Slovenia 16:30 CAT

It will be the third Balkan derby between these two teams in the history of World Championships. Both previous encounters ended in favour of Slovenia, who won 30:28 in 2015 and 29:22 two years later.

Now, Slovenia are also seen as favourites, even if their road to the main round was not so smooth as it had been expected.

After impressively scoring 51 goals against Republic of Korea, Ljubomir Vranjes’ men lost to the Russian Handball Federation, and then came from behind in the match against Belarus to win 29:25.

With two points taken to the main round, Slovenia hope to add some more in the match against their Balkan rivals, who advanced to the next stage without any points.

Replacing Czech Republic as World Championship participants just before its start, North Macedonia lost against Sweden and Egypt in the preliminary round, yet a win against Chile saw them going through.

Now they will hardly feel any pressure in the upcoming matches, but will try to get some positive results.

“We have already reached our goal and now will try to enjoy the main round matches,” said North Macedonia’s coach Danilo Brestovac. 

Russian Handball Federation vs Egypt 19:00 CAT

Despite the absence of some important players like Pavel Atman, Dmitrii Santalov and Aleksandr Shkurinski, the Russian Handball Federation team did a good job in the preliminary round.

After an opening draw with Belarus, they went on to defeat Slovenia and Republic of Korea and won Group H with five points.

Now they are taking three points to the main round, which will start for the European team with the game against hosts Egypt.

The two rivals last met in December 2016 in a friendly game, which the European side narrowly won 24:23. At World Championships, they faced each other four times and claimed two victories each. Notably, in 1999, when Egypt also hosted the tournament, they were defeated by Russia in the quarter-final (20:26). 

In the opening round of the current tournament, the ‘Pharaohs’ left quite a good impression, comfortably beating Chile and North Macedonia before losing against Sweden by one goal in a dramatic match.  

With two points carried over into the main round, Egypt are looking forward to the new challenges.

“We have to gather themselves and get ready for the next three matches in the main round,” said their line player Ibrahim El Masry. 

Sweden vs Belarus 21:30 CAT

Sweden enjoyed a perfect record in Group G, winning all three matches against North Macedonia, Chile and Egypt. On Monday, the Scandinavians were trailing 9:12 at the break against the championship hosts, but in the end clinched a hard-fought 24:23 victory. 

Now they enter the next competition stage on four points, and will face Belarus in their first main round match. Belarus finished third in Group H and took one point with them to the main round.

“Our next games won’t be easy, all the teams are good. We will take everything step by step,” Sweden’s coach Glenn Solberg said.

So far, the Nordic side won both their encounters with Belarus at the World Championships. While the group match in 1995 saw a close battle (29:28), Sweden were fully dominant in the Last 16 of the 2017 tournament, winning 41:22.

Belarus had mixed results in the group stage of the current competition, opening with a draw against the Russian Handball Federation team before defeating Republic of Korea and losing against Slovenia.

Belarus are hardly favourites in the main round, yet coach Iouri Shevtsov hopes that his team will do a decent job.

“There are no accurate expectations from the next matches, as all the teams are equal in performance. But we will do our best to avoid the mistakes in the coming games as well as put on a superb performance,” he stated.