Deciding day for quarter-finals aspiration, as Gothenburg and Herning see main round throwing off

06 Dec. 2023

Deciding day for quarter-finals aspiration, as Gothenburg and Herning see main round throwing off

The other two groups in the main round, in Gothenburg and Herning, are throwing off on Thursday, with co-hosts Sweden and Denmark eager to deliver their fourth wins at the 2023 IHF Women's World Championship, edging even closer to a quarter-finals berth. Montenegro and Croatia will open the day in Gothenburg with a fiery clash, while Germany and Romania also face off in Herning, in a do-or-die clash for the latter.

The President's Cup will also throw away properly in Frederikshavn, as three matches are scheduled between six sides which are looking for their first win.

Main round - Group I
15:30 CET Montenegro vs Croatia 

Montenegro boasted a perfect record in Group B, and they took four points to the main round thanks to a commanding 25:11 win against Cameroon and an impressive comeback against Hungary, 24:18.

Another win, this time against Croatia, may open Montenegro’s door to the quarter-finals, but this clash will be far from easy for Bojana Popovic's team. The two Balkan teams last met just before the 26th IHF Women's World Championship, in a friendly tournament on 27 November, when Croatia won in a very tight fight, 26:25.

However, Ivica Obrvan's team have not demonstrated their best form at Denmark/Norway/Sweden so far, and although Croatia finished second in Group B and secured a spot in the main round, they carried just one point over to the main round, as their path towards the knockout phase is difficult.

"I didn't set myself a goal, nor did anyone set me the goal that we have to reach the quarterfinals. It's more of a wish. We are not the world's top women's handball team, but a good or a very good national team. We can play with everyone, but also have problems with everyone if we are not at the highest level," said Obrvan, adding that "We have an all-or-nothing game against Montenegro, to try to squeeze into the top eight".

Montenegro's Marta Batinovic boasted a 55% save efficiency in the group stage, while Croatia's Tea Pijevic had a 41% save rate, so the Balkan clash may turn into a goalkeepers' duel – and it may play a key role in determining the winner. 

18:00 CET Senegal vs Hungary 

Following two impressive matches against Croatia and Sweden, Senegal struggled for much of the crucial game against People’s Republic of China, but a late run saw them winning 22:15 and progressing to the main round.

It was just the third-ever victory at the IHF Women's World Championship for the African team, who also defeated Kazakhstan and Democratic Republic of Congo during their maiden appearance at this level, at Japan 2019, when they ranked 18th out of 24 participants. 

"We are happy that the Senegalese handball reached the main round of this championship. I'm proud of this team, I love this team and I love Senegal," their French coach Yacine Messaoudi said.

The Africans start the main round with one point, while Hungary are on two points – and the European side need to win on Thursday in order to stay in the fight for a quarter-finals spot.

The Hungarian side hope to bounce back after a frustrating defeat in the match against Montenegro on Monday, in which they led at half-time, but struggled a lot afterwards and ultimately lost 18:24.

"We have to keep going, we must not fall apart in our heads, because as long as there is hope, we have to fight," head coach Vladimir Golovin says. 

Four years ago, Hungary had no problems against Senegal at Japan 2019, winning 30:20, but the African team has obviously made a step forward since then, so the Hungarian should take nothing for granted now. 

20:30 CET Sweden vs Cameroon

Co-hosts Sweden did not drop any points at the group stage, which allowed them to carry four points over to the next stage. At the main round, they will stay in Gothenburg, where a strong support from their home fans during the matches is guaranteed. 

The European side has a good chance to reach the quarter-final, and they may make another step towards it with a win against Cameroon. Sweden will be strong favourites in this match, while for their African rivals, progressing from the group at the IHF Women's World Championship for the first time in history is already quite a big achievement.

Sure, Cameroon will try to fight hard, but Sweden have more quality. In their last game against Croatia, goalkeeper Evelina Eriksson boasted a 48% rate, and centre back Jenny Carlson scored six goals as well as made just as many assists, so the Scandinavians clinched a 22:17 win.

"Individually, it was my best match for the national team. But I always do what is best for the team, whether I score or not doesn't matter," said Carlson, who hopes that Sweden will continue their winning run on Thursday. 

Main round - Group III
15:30 CET Serbia vs Poland

It will be last-chance saloon for both Serbia and Poland, as both sides are in a must-win mode, after conceding two losses against Denmark and Romania and a painful loss against Germany respectively.

But while Serbia are starting on zero points, Poland have two points, courtesy of the win against Japan, therefore have better chances to progress to the quarter-finals. However, any misstep will be seriously punished, as Denmark and Germany will be clearly favoured to reach the quarter-finals.

“Serbia showed in the match against the Denmark that they can play very well. To be honest, I'm even a bit surprised by their high level. This match will show our character. If we are able to recover from the loss against Germany,, I will be very proud of my players. I am sure that now all of them will look for additional gear for Thursday,” says Poland’s coach, Arne Senstad, for the official website of the Polish Federation.

18:00 CET Germany vs Romania

Germany could take a crucial step towards the quarter-finals, provided they extend their winning streak at the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship to four matches, when they meet Romania in the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning on Thursday evening.

Markus Gaugisch’s side survived an early scare against Japan (31:30), opening a three-match winning streak with clear wins against the Islamic Republic of Iran (45:22) and Poland (33:17), dominating their opponent in emphatic fashion, with some excellent defence.

They have a two-points advantage over Romania, which is in a must-win mode, after their painful loss against Denmark, 23:39, their third worst loss in the history of the world handball flagship competition.

However, Romania might receive a crucial boost, as their star, Cristina Neagu, should make her debut at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023, after missing all the three matches in the preliminary round, due to a muscular injury. She resumed training a few days ago, but was not 100%, therefore she was rested so far.

“We were not satisfied especially in defence with the performance we showed and we must be better in all aspects to continue pursue our dream for an Olympic Qualification Tournament spot. The game against Germany will be crucial,” said Romania’s coach, Florentin Pera.

In the last three clashes at the IHF Women’s World Championship, Germany won each time against Romania, 26:23 at Serbia 2013, 35:25 at China 2009 and 36:35, after an absolutely roller-coaster at France 2007, when Germany sealed the bronze medal after that match.

Germany also won the last two official matches between the two sides, 22:19 at the EHF EURO 2020 and 32:28 at the EHF EURO 2022.

20:30 CET Denmark vs Japan

A slow start for co-hosts Denmark saw them clinch a 25:21 win against Serbia, but warning signs were displayed after the Scandinavian side only took the lead for the first time in the 54th minute.

Nevertheless, Denmark pushed on and delivered two clear wins in the next two matches of the preliminary round, as a packed Jyske Bank Boxen saw Jesper Jensen’s side cruise to a 46:11 win against Chile and a 39:26 win against Romania.

Particularly the win against Romania was impressive, confirming Denmark’s credentials as a title contender, as everything clicked for the co-hosts, including the defence, which has conceded the lowest number of goals so far, 54 in three matches, an average of only 18 goals per match.

Sandra Toft, Anna Kristensen and Althea Reinhardt also shined, as the three goalkeepers have the second best percentage in the competition so far, 44.3%, only a few inches shy of Montenegro’s 46%, but Denmark’s defence will seriously be tested by a plucky Japan side.

The runners-up at the 2022 AHF Asian Women’s Handball Championship, delivered excellent matches against European sides, conceding a one-goal loss against Germany, 30:31, and a two-goal loss against Poland, 30:32, on their way to start the main round with zero points.

Therefore, if Japan want a better placement, they face a must-win match against Denmark, yet the co-hosts will be seriously favoured, despite the totally different style they will face, a run-and-gun approach from Japan, whose centre back, Natsuki Aizawa, has scored 17 goals and dished 15 assists so far at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023.

President’s Cup
Group I
15:30 CET People's Republic of China vs Paraguay

The People's Republic of China are on a seven-game losing streak at the IHF Women's World Championships and they are eager to break it when they face Paraguay. last time they managed to win at the world flagship competition was in 2019 when they beat Australia in a clash for 23rd place.

China lost all three matches of Group A at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023 on a big margin, conceding 97 goals. Their opponents, Paraguay had an even tougher time in Group B, conceding 102 goals. However, the South American team hope their upper hand against China will be their attack led by Ariana Portillo Mieres and Fernanda Insfran Mora.

After finishing 29th at Spain 2021, which was their worst placement in five participations, Paraguay have a clear goal of making it this time and thus claim their first win at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023.

This will be the fourth time China and Paraguay face off in the President's Cup and only once China managed to snatch a win - 23:14 at France 2007.

18:00 CET Greenland vs Iceland

The land of ice and snow clash with the land of fire and snow. Will the ice prevail or will the fire melt all Greenland's hope? The second match of this group will give us the answer when Greenland and Iceland meet for the first time in Frederikshavn.

Both teams are making their comeback to the world flagship competition after a long wait. Greenland's last appearance was in 2001 when they finished last (24th), while Iceland had an amazing out, ending in 13th place back in 2011.

Greenland enter to the President's Cup after three straightforward defeats in Group C against Norway, Austria and South Korea, having their attack among the least effective at the 26th IHF Women's World Championship. 

Iceland, on the other hand, were close to progressing further to the main round but a draw against Angola saw them join the consolation round. With 29 goals conceded on average, compared to Greenland's 37, they hope they will stay on the course of a better placement.

Group II
13:00 CET Chile vs Islamic Republic of Iran

The 2023 Central American Women's Handball Championship runners-up are still waiting for their second-ever IHF Women’s World Championship win, after previously succeeding only in 2009 against Australia. The Islamic Republic of Iran, who made the breakthrough to the big scene at Spain 2021 hope the game against Chile will bring them the first win in the world handball flagship competition.

Constanza Paul and Andrea Valeska Lovera Sala lead the Chilean attack, netting ten and eight times in three matches. The duo will have to find a way not to 'wake up' one of the most experienced players in their opponent's rows, goalkeeper Fatemeh Khalili Behfar.

So far, the Islamic Republic of Iran could not keep up with stronger opponents in the group and had their highest number of goals scored against Germany (22:45). Their opponents never passed the 20-goal mark, having their best outing against Romania (19:44).