Group C: Norway and Romania set sights on main round berths

05 Dec. 2021

Group C: Norway and Romania set sights on main round berths

After winning their first round matches against the Islamic Republic of Iran and Kazakhstan, respectively, Romania and Norway can progress to the next round if they double down against their Asian opponents on Sunday in Castelló.

Romania vs Kazakhstan 18:00 CET

Romania enjoyed their best start at the IHF Women’s World Championship since 2015, with a thorough win against Iran on Friday, 39:11 and they could seal a main round berth with a win against Kazakhstan, provided Norway win against Iran.

Despite not playing any friendly games before the start of Spain 2021, Romania were cruising against the Iranian side, ticking all the boxes in coach Adrian Vasile’s book.

“We wanted to concede less than 15 goals, defend well and score some easy goals on the fast breaks. I think we did all that and I am satisfied with how our team played.

“Of course, there were too many misses, but I think it is difficult to focus at 100% during the start of such a long tournament like the IHF Women’s World Championship,” said Vasile to at the end of the first game at Spain 2021.

Another Asian team awaits Romania now and it is one Vasile’s side is familiar with, having played against Kazakhstan three times in the past 13 years. A clear 31:19 at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 was followed by another swift win, 36:20, at Denmark 2015 in the preliminary round.

But Kazakhstan handed Romania a whole lot of trouble two years ago at Japan 2019, when the Romania side could only sneak out with a 22:20 win, which caused uproar in their home country and between their fans.

Romania will be without star left back Cristina Neagu, therefore their inexperienced core of players need to forget about the Iran win and start strong against a Kazakh side that has never won a game against a European team.

Vasile will also not count on 18-year-old right wing Oana Bors, who suffered a torn ligament injury during the game against Iran, as a replacement will be lined up for the next matches, but could potentially arrive too late in Spain to take on the court.

Therefore, Romania will have only two left-handed players available for this match, right wing Laura Moisa and right back Alina Ilie.

Islamic Republic of Iran vs Norway 20:30 CET

Happy to travel for their first-ever IHF Women’s World Championship, Iran put in all the effort needed in their historical first match against Romania, conceding a 11:39 loss, after scoring only three times in the first half.

It was a pleasant experience for Iran, whose goalkeeper, Fatemeh Khalili Behfar had a superb outing, becoming the shot stopper with the most saves after the first round at Spain 2021 with 18, two more than any other goalkeeper in the competition.

However, Khalili Behfar’s saving efficiency, 32%, was only the 24th best in the competition after the first round of matches, after having faced 56 shots, the most a team conceded in the first match.

The challenge for Iran will be even harder now, as the team who finished fourth at the 2021 AHF Asian Women’s Handball Championship in September meet three-time gold medallist Norway, one of the biggest favourites, if not the biggest, to clinch the trophy at Spain 2021.

Iran watched from the stands in the Pabellón Ciutat de Castelló, as Norway thoroughly disposed of Kazakhstan in the first game of the group, 46:18, trying to find ways to stop the Scandinavian side, who are due for another attacking masterclass on Sunday evening.

Norway’s traditional style of taking advantage of their fast breaks worked wonders against Kazakhstan on Friday, as they scored 13 goals out of 15 shots after taking possession after a Kazakh mistake and they will try to do the same against Iran.

Moreover, all the Norwegian outfield players scored at least one goal in their first match, with coach Thorir Hergeirsson distributing the minutes evenly for his players.

“Winning big gives you a good feeling, it is something you got to take with you and go there and get even better,” said Norway centre back Stine Bredal Oftedal to Norwegian TV station TV2.

Photo: RFEBM / Á. Bermejo