13 Apr. 2023
With the European qualification play-offs for the 26th IHF Women's World Championship completed after 20 matches in the past week, 10 sides have now sealed their tickets for Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023, taking the grand total of teams qualified to 29.
The 10 doubleheaders were played between 6 and 12 April, with each side hosting a game, but there were no big surprises as favourites marched towards the qualification with several excellent performances.
The most balanced doubleheader was the one between Spain and Austria, with the first leg finishing in a 28:28 draw in Austria. Spain, which finished fourth at the previous edition of the IHF Women's World Championship, were down one goal at the break in the second leg. Still, they bounced back and secured a 26:24 win, led by a six-goal performance from left wing Jennifer Gutiérrez, on their way to a 54:52 aggregate win.
The most significant gap was recorded between Germany and Greece, as the more experienced Germany side cruised to two clear wins. The world championship berth was sealed from the first leg, as Germany took a commanding 39:13 home win, with all outfield players scoring at least one goal, led by right back Julia Maidhof, who had seven goals. In the second leg, Germany took a 36:20 win, jumping to a 75:33 aggregate win, which saw them cruising towards the final competition in the winter of 2023.
With a clear 63:44 aggregate win over Portugal, Romania extended their appearance streak at the IHF Women's World Championship to 26 editions in a row, as Florentin Pera's side is the only team to have qualified to each and every edition of the world handball flagship competition. Star left back Cristina Neagu, who could play in her last edition of the IHF Women's World Championship, scored seven goals in the two legs.
Ukraine produced one of the biggest surprises of this phase of the competition, totally outplaying their North Macedonia rivals and jumping to a 55:44 aggregate win, despite the second leg being played on a neutral court in Kisvárda, Hungary. With a totally dominating defence that limited North Macedonia to 44 goals scored in two matches, Ukraine made their comeback to the IHF Women's World Championship after a 14-year wait.
Another balanced doubleheader was set to be played between Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but the latter side took care of the business as coach Bent Dahl, recently appointed, delivered his usual fast-paced style, which could not be stopped by Switzerland. Left back Marketa Jerabkova scored 18 goals while the top scorer of the 2022 IHF Women's Junior World Championship, Charlotte Cholevová, added eight goals, with the Czech Republic sealing two wins, 32:31 and 36:27, on their way to a 68:58 aggregate win. The Swiss Handball Federation (SHV) had announced in the run-up to the home match that the national spectator record had been broken. Exactly 600 days before the first match at the Women's EHF EURO 2024, the SHV invited spectators to the kick-off event in Basel and more than doubled the target of 1500 spectators to 3124.
Croatia sealed back-to-back tickets for the IHF Women's World Championship for the first time since 2007 with a dominating display against Slovakia, taking a 25:23 win in the first leg that paved the way towards qualification. With an excellent 31:18 win in the second game and 12 goals signed by centre back Dejana Milosavljevic in the doubleheader, Croatia cruised to a 56:41 aggregate win against Jorge Duenas' side and earned their tickets for Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023.
Backed by 13 goals from right back Katrin Klujber, Hungary jumped to a 59:49 aggregate win against Iceland, a clear margin, despite their opponents going head-to-head with the powerhouse for 45 minutes in the second leg after dropping the first game, 21:25. Hungary sealed their sixth berth in a row at the IHF Women's World Championship and their 23rd in history.
A 65:49 aggregate win against Türkiye also saw Serbia through, as well as a 64:46 aggregate win for Slovenia over Italy, despite talisman Ana Gros missing out in the first leg as she was rested for the second game, played at home, which saw Gros score six times.
Poland completed the card for the qualified teams with a clear 68:42 aggregate win over Kosovo, as they made it through to the final competition for the fifth time in the last six editions.
In total, 29 teams are now qualified for the 2023 IHF Women's World Championship after the 10 European sides made it through this week. Poland, Serbia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Spain, Slovenia, Ukraine and Germany joined the three co-hosts, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the other three European sides qualified from the EHF EURO 2022 – France, Montenegro and the Netherlands.
Angola, Congo, Cameroon and Senegal are the four African sides qualified, while the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea are the Asian sides at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023.
Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay complete the card, with three other spots still left open.
2023 IHF Women's World Championship – European qualification play-offs
Poland vs Kosovo 68:42 on aggregate
Türkiye vs Serbia 49:65 on aggregate
Slovakia vs Croatia 41:56 on aggregate
Switzerland vs Czech Republic 58:68 on aggregate
Romania vs Portugal 63:44 on aggregate
Iceland vs Hungary 49:59 on aggregate
Austria vs Spain 52:54 on aggregate
Italy vs Slovenia 46:64 on aggregate
North Macedonia vs Ukraine 44:55 on aggregate
Germany vs Greece 75:33 on aggregate
Photo: Handball Federation Portugal