03 Dec. 2019
Despite 2013 champions Brazil yet to get a win at the 2019 IHF Women’s World Championship in Kumamoto, Japan, they have been impressive in their 30:24 loss to the group B-leading Germans and 19:19 draw against title-holders France.
Their next match against Republic of Korea (3pm – Tuesday 3 December) is also another crucial clash, and with just three teams qualifying through from group B to the main round, Brazil will need to get a result or their pathway out of a group packed full of pedigree – five of the six teams all having won the world championship – will be tough.
With those current and former world champions in the group, the level of competition has been high, not least from the goalkeepers. Germany’s Dinah Eckerle made 20 saves (48% save rate) and France’s Amandine Leynaud made 12 (43%) in their matches against Brazil and not only were the saves made at crucial moments, but their mere presence on court disrupted the Brazilian attack.
So it was no surprise in either game when the goalkeepers won their respective ‘hummel Best Player of the Match Award’ for their performances against the South Americans, but for one of Brazil’s own goalkeepers, Barbara Arenhart, it was no surprise about the quality on show.
“The level is very high right now in the whole championship,” said Arenhart to IHF.info about the performances. “The goalkeepers are very experienced, and, for me, Amandine is one of the best in the world. We have to respect that, but it is, of course, very frustrating that they are saving so well, that’s handball though – we have to keep on improving with our shooting and that’s it.”
Arenhart herself shares shot-stopping duties with Renata Arruda in the Brazilian goal and as part of her duties not only studies her opponents’ shooters but makes sure she gets as much information she can on the opposition goalkeepers themselves.
“We try to help each other and during the matches we try to give some information that can help our shooters,” she explained. “But handball is a lot about feelings. Nothing happens 100% as we expect, so we study the players and goalkeepers a lot and everything else, but in matches emotions are very high and things go differently.”
In their match against France, Brazil had chances to win – and lose – and at the final whistle they celebrated their point, knowing it kept their chances alive of qualification, while France looked dejected, having also failed to open their win column at Japan 2019.
“We are very proud and positive about it,” said Arenhart about the point. “We got a point against the world champions and that gives us a lot of hope, especially because against Germany we had a hard defeat, so every point now counts a lot.
“It’s very meaningful and important for us to get a point,” she continued. “Yes, of course, there were plenty of chances to win but we also have a lot of respect for the French team and, like I said, their goalkeeper was awesome.
“Still, a point is very important; it’s better to go home with a point in the pocket than nothing, and that is why we were celebrating so hard; we had to fight 60 minutes to get it.”
With Brazil on what is officially called a ‘rest day’ before their Korea match, Arenhart was quick to point out that rest is the least of what she will do.
“Of course, we train on rest day, preparing for Korea,” said the Brazilian captain, who plays her club handball for Vaci Noi Kezilabda in Hungary. “We get a little more time to rest because on game days it’s been a very full schedule, but we always hope we can sleep longer before we have meetings, training and regeneration treatments.
“We will study Korea and focus on them – they are very different and very strong physically. It’s a totally different (style of) handball so we have to be ready for a lot of running, a lot of actions and hopefully we can have a good day again and get two points.
While Arenhart revealed that both the body and mind are regenerated on rest days (“both of them are working together”) she also has been able to take in some Japanese culture already, having had some time off during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event held just before Japan 2019.
And with Brazil home to the largest Japanese population outside Japan in the world, with Sao Paulo home to the biggest concentration, does Arenhart feel any closer connection?
“Even though there are a lot of Japanese in Brazil, in Sao Paulo, it’s absolutely not the same there as it is here,” said the 33-year-old. “So it’s been very interesting for us to be here, it’s a total culture shock for us; everything is different for us, from the food to the nature, everything is totally different
“We had a day off to get around Tokyo during the test event and it was very nice and impressive,” she added. “But now we are here in Kumamoto there are no more free days and we are totally focused, just hall-hotel-hall and eat, sleep, rest.”
That focus will be needed in Kumamoto, a prefecture that Arenhart and her Brazil side want to stay in until the last day of competition on Sunday 15 December.
“Of course we hope to be here right until the end, we have a lot chances and are in the hardest group in my opinion, but we will fight for a place in the main round and I believe we can do that.
“I hope that our fans know we will never give up because anything can happen in handball and we will always fight to win.”