Examining Group E: Four European sides tough it out for three main round berths

10 Nov. 2021

Examining Group E: Four European sides tough it out for three main round berths

With the expansion of the IHF Women’s World Championship to 32 teams set to be enforced at Spain 2021, it was highly likely that a group would consist of four teams from the same continent.

Indeed, this is the case with Group E, where Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia will tough it out for the three berths for the main round, in what could prove to be a topsy-turvy group, one of the most balanced and difficult to predict at the 25th IHF Women’s World Championship.

Due to their eighth-place finish at Japan 2019, Germany were allotted to Pot 1 before the draw, but they could hardly have faced more daunting opponents in the preliminary round, which will challenge them and define their tournament.

The German-Hungarian rivalry is one steeped in history, especially in the last 25 years, with the two teams meeting 20 times since 1994. Hungary hold the head-to-head record, having won 11 of the 20 mutual meetings, but two of the last three matches were won by Germany.

The last one came in at the Women’s EHF EURO December 2020, when Germany secured a 32:25 win, the second biggest in history against Hungary. 

The two sides also met four times at the IHF Women’s World Championship, with Germany taking two wins, as opposed to Hungary’s one. The other game finished in a draw, 30:30, in the main round at France 2007.

Germany have plenty of firepower in attack, as centre back Alina Grijseels is the top scorer of the DELO EHF Champions League after six rounds, with 53 goals. The German side have also been on the rise in the past four years, constantly improving their finishing position in the major tournaments, with an eye on developing even further at Spain 2021.

After finishing seventh at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Hungary underwent a swift transformation, as Gabor Danyi and Gabor Elek, who co-coached the side in the past two years, were replaced by Vladimir Golovin, the former Hungary junior women’s coach. The core of the team remained largely the same, with experienced players like Zsuszanna Tomori or Nadine Schatzl mixing with rising stars like backs Katrin Klujber and Noemi Hafra.

With plenty of experience at their disposal, Hungary also hold the head-to-head record against Slovakia, who will be back at the IHF Women’s World Championship for the first time since 1995.

The two sides have met only once in competitive matches at the major international tournaments, when they settled for a 23:23 draw at the EHF EURO 1994. Since then, Hungary won six times and drew another game in official games, in the Qualification Phase for both the IHF Women’s World Championship and the EHF EURO.

Drawn in the same group in the Qualification Phase 2 of the EHF EURO 2022, Hungary and Slovakia met in October 2021, when the Hungarian side took a hard-fought win against their opponents in Group E, 30:28. The two sides also locked horns in the European Qualification Phase 2 for the IHF Women’s World Championship 2017, as the Hungarian side secured a 52:43 aggregate win after a 24:24 draw in Slovakia in the second leg.

Golovin’s side are also cruising in the head-to-head record against the Czech Republic, winning all four games at major tournaments played between the two sides. Hungary took clear wins, 25:19 at the EHF EURO 1994 and 33:26 at the EHF EURO 2002, before the two teams met twice in the last eight years at the IHF Women’s World Championship.

At Serbia 2013, Hungary took the early lead and never looked behind, securing a 35:27 win, but at Germany 2017, when the Czech side enjoyed their best-ever finish, placing eighth, Hungary clung by the skin of their teeth to secure a hard-fought 30:29 win, after Czech backs Marketa Jerabkova and Iveta Luzumova combined for 16 goals.

With Germany and Hungary touted as favourites, it could all come down to the game between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, two countries that share a part of history and big similarities between their styles.

The two teams met only twice in competitive matches, at the EHF EURO 1994, when the Czech Republic secured a big 22:16 win against Slovakia, and at the 1995 IHF Women’s World Championship, when a 24:24 draw lifted Slovakia to the third place in their group, only to be knocked out by Norway in the Round of 16.

The Czech Republic played plenty of friendly games against Slovakia, eight in the last 11 years, with the Slovak side winning only two, while another one finished in a draw.