“We want to be known for not giving up”
04 Dec. 2023
The 26th IHF Women’s World Champinship sees Iceland competing in their first major championship since 2012, when they last played the European Championship. It is therefore a big experience for the side, who secured a place at DEN/NOR/SWE 2023 thanks to a wild card. Now, Iceland are ready to fight for their place in the main round as they take the court in Stavanger for a must-win clash against Angola on Monday.
“It was amazing to see all the people from Iceland coming here. It’s just something really special,” said centre back Sandra Erlingsdottir after their opening game against Slovenia, which saw Iceland defeated 24:30. “You could see we were really stressed, but then we came into the game, and now I’m just sad that we lost.
“We have a lot of the technical faults that we don’t have to have. We are throwing the ball away. And then they are so good a team, they just go straight ahead and make the goal.”
In round 2, Iceland took on 2021 World Championship silver medallists France, in a match they entered as the underdogs. After a difficult start, which saw them behind 0:7, Iceland fought back and gave France a good challenge, but could not avoid registering their second defeat, 22:31.
“The start of the games have been really tough for us and that’s something that we have to take with us to the next game,” said goalkeeper Elin Thorsteinsdottir following the round 2 match, reflecting on what her team have learned in the two games back at a major championship so far. “We want to be known for not giving up when things are tough and just giving it all we have, and that’s exactly what we did today.”
The last major championship for Iceland was the EHF EURO 2012, which came following two consecutive participations in the major tournaments prior to that — the 2011 World Championship and the EHF EURO 2010. As they participate in the 2023 World Championship, Iceland are also looking in a strong position to return to the EHF EURO, as they are currently second-ranked in their qualification group.
Only two out of six matches have been played in the EHF EURO qualifiers, but with a perfect record so far, collected from two solid wins — 32:14 against Luxembourg and 28:23 versus Faroe Islands — Iceland are clearly in good form and off to the best start possible.
“We always had the goal to go to the European championship. That’s what what our goal was from the start. This [World Championship wild card] is just an extra win for us. So to be on a stage like this, this is what we want — we want to be here all the time,” said Thorsteinsdottir, who saved 14 shots against France and received the player of the match award.
“It’s amazing to be here and we are so proud that we got the chance to be here and that we are fighting like we are doing right now.”
It will be a tough fight against Angola on Monday night, as Iceland battle to join France and Slovenia in the main round. As both Iceland and Angola enter the match on zero points after two defeats, the winner will proceed to the main round. A draw will favour Angola, who have had narrower losses — most notably, only by one goal to France, which could be an ominous sign for Iceland.
But Iceland have learned from their two opening games, knowing they need to focus on reducing the attacking errors and continuing their defensive level. And as Erlingsdottir said, it is all about one step at a time for her team: “It’s just one step forward and then there are many more steps forward after this.”