Main Round Group IV: Spain and Brazil may clinch quarter-final berths

10 Dec. 2021

Main Round Group IV: Spain and Brazil may clinch quarter-final berths

With six points each, Spain and Brazil rise above all other teams in main round Group IV, and on Friday, both sides will need one more point to secure their progression to the quarter-finals.

Argentina vs Brazil 15:30 CET

In any sport, matches between these two South American teams are seen as true derbies, and women's handball is no exception. 

However, Argentina and Brazil have met just once at the World Championship, as the Brazilians celebrated a 23:19 win at Denmark 2015.

More recently, Brazil beat Argentina a few more times, and just two months ago, they claimed a 31:22 win in a crucial game of the 2021 South and Central American Championship. 

But while Brazil have always had the upper hand in this rivalry, Argentina finished higher at the 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship, as they finished 16th, and Brazil 17th.

Now things look differently, as Brazil, who have enjoyed a four-game winning streak, need only one more point to seal their quarter-final berth.

However, their coach Cristiano Silva is wary of the next opponents.

"It will be a very difficult game, as we have a strong rivalry with Argentina. Both teams have done well at the current tournament, but we hope to play another good game, and we'll try to beat them," he said after a 38:31 win against Austria in their opening main round game on Monday.

On the same day, Argentina fought hard against Croatia, but ultimately lost by a six-goal margin, 22:28, and now have merely a theoretical chance to reach the quarter-final stage.

Eduardo Gallardo's team have already done a good job by reaching the main round, but their campaign will be even more successful if they manage to upset Brazil. 

Japan vs Austria 18:00 CET

Both teams are coming off defeats in their opening main round matches, as Japan lost against Spain 26:28 and Austria were defeated by Brazil 31:38.

However, they fought hard, and notably, the half-time score in both encounters was 15:15.

"We had ups and downs during the match, and we have to be more patient when we are trailing. Anyway, we will try to learn from this game and do better in the next two matches," Japan's line player Naoko Sahara said.

Without as many as seven important players – sidelined due to the COVID-19 – Austria also showed great fighting spirit against Brazil. But while their 7 vs 6 game contributed to some success in attack, the European team conceded as many as 11 goals into an empty net, which resulted in a 31:38 defeat.

With zero points, Austria have no chance of reaching the quarter-finals, but they just hope to avoid further positive COVID-19 cases and maybe create some surprises in the remaining two matches.

"Japan are a top team with fast and lively players. We have to put our tiredness aside and make use of our physical superiority. It's important to stay in the game as long as we can, and then we will see what is possible," Austria's interim coach Helfried Müller said. 

The two sides previously met twice at an IHF Women’s World Championship, and the European team won both times: 32:16 at Austria/Hungary 1995 and 24:16 at Germany 1997. 

Croatia vs Spain 20:30 CET

Croatia are another team who were hit hard by COVID-19 during the tournament, as Camila Micijevic, Dora Krsnik and Ivana Dezic tested positive during the preliminary round. 

"It's hard to play without them, but the girls have been working hard. This is a team with character who has good defence and good goalkeeping, and any opponents will have a hard time against us," their coach Nenad Sostaric said after the 28:22 win against Argentina. 

Now, Croatia hardly have a chance to go through, but their left back Larissa Kalaus hopes to fight hard against the tournament hosts.

"Spain are in a good form, but actually it's better for us to be underdogs, as we don't have pressure then. Hopefully, we will fight and play a good game," she said. 

The home side have won all four matches in Torrevieja so far, including their opening main round game against Japan, 28:26. Now even a draw on Friday will be enough for Spain to book their quarter-final ticket. 

"We knew that we would have three matches of a maximal difficulty in the main round, so it was very important to start it with two points," said Spain coach Jose Ignacio Prades.

"However, we are not relaxing. We have confidence after beating Japan, but we know that the game with Croatia will be very hard," he added. 

Spain and Croatia exchanged victories in their previous encounters at the World Championship, as Spain won 29:28 in 2003, while Croatia took revenge in 2007, 30:25. More recently, the teams' paths crossed at the EHF EURO 2018, where Spain earned a 25:18 victory.

Photo: RFEBM / J. L. Recio