Examining Group H: Republic of Korea face European challenge
31 Dec. 2020
Three European teams and one Asian side feature in what promises to be a balanced group at the 27th IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt.
Slovenia, Belarus, the Russian Handball Federation Team and Republic of Korea eye the three main round spots, as past results predict an uphill challenge for the Asian side.
With a golden generation that saw Slovenia take a bronze medal at France 2017 and finish fourth at the EHF EURO 2020, Ljubomir Vranjes’ side seem to be the team to beat in this group.
They boast both experience as well as young and hungry stalwarts – a dangerous mix. Key players like Jure Dolenec, Dean Bombac, Stas Skube or Miha Zarabec are joined by the likes of Blaz Janc and Domen Makuc, who is poised to make his debut in the Slovenian side at Egypt 2021.
However, the Slovenian side have a positive head-to-head balance against Belarus and Republic of Korea only.
They met Belarus twice at the IHF Men’s World Championship, earning two nip and tuck wins, 27:26 at Spain 2013 and 34:29 at Qatar 2015, in the group phase of the two events.
Slovenia also beat Republic of Korea twice, once at the Olympic Games in 2004 (26:23) and once in the group phase at Spain 2013 (34:27).
Russia hold the historic record against Slovenia, with seven wins in nine competitive games between the two teams.
Yet, the last two games between the two sides have been secured by Slovenia, both at the IHF Men’s World Championship, as the Slovenian side are clearly on the up.
A hard-fought 28:27 win in the quarter-final phase at Spain 2013, when Slovenia finished fourth, was followed by a clear 32:26 win in the Round of 16 at France 2017, as the Slovenian side won their first-ever bronze medal in the competition.
With several key absences, including experienced left back Pavel Atman, who suffered an injury and is out of the competition, the Russian Handball Federation Team will try to improve on their 14th place from two years ago.
The Wild Card team hold the head-to-head advantage against all teams in this group, having never lost in four competitive games against Belarus, winning seven of nine against Slovenia and are unbeaten in nine games out of ten against Republic of Korea.
The only Korean win against the Russian side came at the Olympic Games 2004 (35:32). However, at the IHF Men’s World Championships, the Asian team avoided the loss in one game only, as they managed a 32:32 draw in the group phase at Germany 2007, losing the other five, including two Round of 16 matches, at Egypt 1999 (23:31) and at France 2001 (26:28).
Belarus also won their only competitive game against Republic of Korea, a 26:20 victory, in the group phase at Spain 2013.
All Group H matches will be played in Borg el Arab Sports Hall on 14, 16 and 18 January. More information on the 27th IHF Men’s World Championship can be found here.