Unbeaten powerhouses ready to fight for gold at North Macedonia 2022

09 Aug. 2022

Unbeaten powerhouses ready to fight for gold at North Macedonia 2022

After nine gruelling days of competition, the curtain will fall on the 2022 IHF Women’s Youth (U18) World Championship, with four games ready to decide the final standings in the competition.

Surely all eyes will be on the final between Denmark and Republic of Korea, a rematch of the final from the first-ever edition of the world flagship event for this age category, when the European side took a 36:33 win against their rivals in 2006.

Both sides are riding a seven-game winning streak into the final, making this match one of the greatest to watch in the competition, as two sides with totally different styles of handball are colliding.

In the bronze-medal game, Hungary will be favoured to finish the competition on a high against Netherlands.

Gold-medal match

  • Denmark vs Republic of Korea (18:15 CEST, Boris Trajkovski Sports Centre, Skopje)

16 years ago, at the first-ever edition of the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship, Denmark were crowned champions after a flawless tournament, their five-game winning streak culminating with a 36:33 win in the final against the Republic of Korea.

No final has seen that number of goals scored again, with the record still standing tall, but the two sides will go at it once again, 16 years later, when only one will celebrate the gold medal. It would be Denmark’s third in history, tying Russia as the team with the most titles in the competition, while the Republic of Korea have only secured one silver and two bronze medals in history.

Both sides are riding seven-game winning streaks in the tournament, with both Denmark and Korea being undoubtedly the best sides at North Macedonia 2022. The Asian side also delivered one of the biggest surprises in the competition on Monday, by taking a nail-biting 30:29 win against Hungary, in the most competitive match of the 2022 IHF Women’s Youth World Championship. 

However, while Denmark have won their matches by an average difference of 10 goals per game, Korea’s numbers are lower in this case, with the average win coming at 3.57 goals throughout the tournament. Yet, the Asian side have faced only European competition so far, making their path to the final even more difficult.

The European side have relied heavily on two backs – Julie Mathiesen Scaglione and Anna With Johansen – whose experience in the Danish league has truly shone throughout the whole tournament. With 52 goals scored, Scaglione is the fourth top scorer, while Johansen added 44 goals, as the two are the fulcrum of Denmark’s attack at North Macedonia 2022.

“It has been an amazing tournament for us, but the final will be the toughest match yet. Hopefully, we will be prepared and try to win the gold medal,” said Johansen after the 37:21 win against the Netherlands in the semi-final.

While the two Danish backs combined for 96 goals, Korea’s pair of centre back Minseo Kim and left wing Seojin Kim scored 100 goals between them, with a combined shooting efficiency of 74%. In fact, these are also two of the best and most efficient attacks in the competition, with Korea converting 63.6% of their shots, while Denmark are close, with a 63.1% efficiency.

Denmark and Korea are also close in the number of goals scored, with the European side having an average of 32.2 goals scored per game, followed closely by their Asian counterparts, with 31.7 goals per game.

The difference is in the defence, however, with Denmark conceding only 22.2 goals per game, five and a half goals less than Korea’s 27.8 conceded goals per game.

“Every moment so far was difficult, but my players have done a good tournament and we will try to fight for the medal,” concluded Korea’s assistant coach Eunjung Kim.

Bronze-medal match

  • Netherlands vs Hungary (16:00 CEST, Boris Trajkovski Sports Centre, Skopje)

Netherlands were at the receiving end of the second-largest difference in the history of the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship semi-finals, a 21:37 drubbing at the hands of Denmark.

It was the Netherlands’ second loss in the competition, which was amplified by not being able to rely on centre back Jalisha Loy, who suffered a knee injury in the quarter-finals against Iceland.

Netherlands went down early and never bounced back and will have a tough game in the bronze-medal match, where Hungary are surely favoured, despite coming in with low morale after their 29:30 semi-final loss against Korea.

The reigning European champions failed to do the double at the IHF Women’s Youth Handball World Championship but will try to seal a medal, which would undoubtedly be a strong performance, especially as their run-in has been one of the toughest at North Macedonia 2022, with wins against France, Norway, Spain and Egypt before losing the game against the Asian side.

With the MVP of the W17 EHF EURO 2021, centre back Julia Farkas, out of contention due to an injury, Hungary will rely once again on backs Petra Simon and Liliána Csernyánszki, who have combined for 17 goals in the match against Korea.

Simon, in particular, had an outstanding tournament, scoring 46 goals and needs only four goals to break into the top 10 scorers at North Macedonia 2022.

5/6 Placement match

  • France vs Sweden (13:45 CEST, Boris Trajkovski Sports Centre, Skopje)

It will not be France’s best finish in the competition – they finished fourth three times in a row in 2006, 2008 and 2010 – but finishing fifth or sixth just underlines their potential. Facing some of the toughest challenges on their way to this match, “Les Bleuettes” rode the wave with a great defence and conceded only two losses – 21:22 against Hungary and 26:32 against Denmark, in the quarter-finals.

With a strong defence, one of the best in the competition, and some great creative backs, with twins Lylou and Enola Borg shining throughout North Macedonia 2022, France can deliver their best result at the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship since 2010.

After a disappointing start to the competition, Sweden bounced back and secured a win against Egypt on Monday, despite having four players out due to a stomach virus. With another win, they can finish fifth, having already achieved their sixth consecutive top-10 finish in the competition.

7/8 Placement match

  • Iceland vs Egypt (11:45 CEST, Boris Trajkovski Sports Centre, Skopje)

The two big surprises of the competition, Iceland and Egypt, have run out of steam in the last matches and conceded two losses in a row in the knock-out phase at North Macedonia 2022.

That does not erase their superb tournament so far, as both secured their best-ever finishes at the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship, but finishing the tournament with a win would be amazing for both.

Facing Denmark and Sweden, two Scandinavian sides did not work out well for Egypt in this tournament, as the African side have lost the last three matches, after starting the competition with four wins.

However, facing Iceland will be another tough challenge, as the European side have been the leading defence in the competition, conceding only 21.2 goals per game so far in the first seven matches.

Egypt’s attack has also dwindled in the past matches, dropping from an average of 34.6 goals scored per game in the preliminary round to only 25.2 goals per game scored in the next four matches.

“It’s all about experience and we were exhausted. We played a series of very tough games and we tried to do our best. The girls did a very good job in this tournament and we hope to end it on a high,” said Egypt’s coach Mohamed Ahmed Farghaly.