Netherlands Coach: Emmanuel Mayonnade
Since their historic first international medal at the 2015 IHF Women’s World Championship, the Netherlands have been established as one of the strongest sides in handball. They are the only team to have reached the semi-finals at every major international event since that date – the 2015 and 2017 World Championships, the 2016 Olympic Games, and the 2016 and 2018 European championships. With those results came silver medals at Denmark 2015 and the EURO 2016, and bronze at Germany 2017 and the EURO 2018.
However, they have yet to raise a trophy.
The 2019 World Championship will be the first with Emmanuel Mayonnade as coach. After the successful tenures of Henk Groener and Helle Thomsen, who were responsible for the medals won since 2015, Mayonnade stepped into the role of head coach in early 2019. Mayonnade is not afraid of sharing the team’s goal at Japan 2019:
“The goal is to be world champion! I can’t imagine for a second leaving the competition before the finals. Obviously, we also are aiming to qualify for the Olympic Qualification Tournaments,” says Mayonnade.
“I am also lucid about the other teams of course, but I want us to frighten everyone with that one goal in mind. I want us to make daily efforts at the club and with the national team. I say it a lot: I prefer to be ambitious and maybe be wrong in the end than to be cautious in my ambition.”
Mayonnade is known for his work with French champions Metz Handball, where the majority of the France national team play. In the 2018/19 club season, Mayonnade led Metz to become the first French team ever to reach the Women’s EHF FINAL4 – the Champions League finals – and also guided the Netherlands successfully through their first qualification matches on the path to the 2020 European championship, taking two victories in two games.
Another key change for the Netherlands ahead of the 2019 World Championship is the absence of EURO 2016 MVP Nycke Groot, who is widely recognised as one of the best playmakers in the game today. Groot made regular appearances in All-star Teams for both the national team and playing with her former club Györi Audi ETO KC in the Champions League before announcing she would stop with the national team after the EHF EURO 2018, to lessen her workload and focus on new club Odense.
Groot’s decision followed a similar one from her former Györ teammate and All-star line player at the 2017 World Championship, Yvette Broch. Broch stepped down from the handball after Germany 2017, appearing to leave the Netherlands severely weakened given her importance in their fast attacking play as well as in the middle block of the defence.
However, without Broch and even marred by injuries such as that of captain Danick Snelder – another key in defence and line player alongside Broch – the Netherlands made it to the medal round at the EHF EURO 2018 and left the championship in France with the bronze medal. Therefore, though Broch and Groot are big names to have lost, the Netherlands cannot be underestimated with the number of experienced players that remain – and are undoubtedly hungry to add a gold medal to their collections.
In Japan, the Netherlands will play Serbia, Slovenia, Angola and Cuba in preliminary Group A. They will also take on Norway in a now familiar battle – the two teams met in the final at the 2015 World Championship and EHF EURO 2016, the bronze medal match at the 2016 Olympic Games, the semi-final at the 2017 World Championship and the main round at the EHF EURO 2018. Every single clash was won by Norway.
“It is a very interesting and homogeneous group I think, in level of playing, how all teams play,” says Mayonnade. “We have been drawn in Group A with the best possible team of pot two, Norway. But that is good for us – that will permit us to fast pick up to play at high level. The level of all the teams is very close to one another. We can all win or lose those matches, so we need to be serious right away.”
The Netherlands travel to Tokyo in the middle of November for their final training camp, which includes a friendly match against Romania in their venue for the preliminary round, the Aqua Dome in Kumamoto.
Key players: Lois Abbingh (left back), Danick Snelder (line player), Tess Wester (goalkeeper)
Qualification for Japan 2019: EHF EURO 2018 bronze medallists
History in tournament: 1957-1965: DNP, 1971: 8th, 1973: 12th, 1975: DNQ, 1978: 9th, 1982: DNQ, 1986: 10th, 1990-1997: DNQ, 1999: 10th, 2001: 14th, 2003: DNQ, 2005: 5th, 2007-2009: DNQ, 2011: 15th, 2013: 13th, 2015: 2nd, 2017: 3rd
Group at Japan 2019: Group A (Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Angola, Cuba)