Examining Group E: Three European sides ready to deliver drama in Herning

29 Oct. 2023

Examining Group E: Three European sides ready to deliver drama in Herning

Group E projects to be one of the most balanced and one with a potential of surprises, as co-hosts Denmark will be eagerly cheered in the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning when they face two European sides – Romania and Serbia – and a South American team in Chile.

With three spots open for the main round, the three European sides will be overwhelming favourites to progress to the next phase, as Chile’s lack of experience looks to be problematic and will probably be their main undoing, especially as their opponents are looking towards the knockout phase of the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship.

Denmark’s progression over the last years has been remarkable. After years of missing out on a place in the final weekend at the major international competitions, the Scandinavian side has been back in business since coach Jesper Jensen took over in 2020.

On their home court, Denmark narrowly missed out on a medal at the EHF EURO 2020, finishing fourth, but that in itself was a promising sign. Over the last two major international competitions, the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship and the EHF EURO 2022, Denmark established themselves as a strong contender, taking the bronze medal at Spain 2021 and finishing as silver medallists in the continental competition.

Surely, Denmark would have preferred easier opponents in the preliminary round at the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship, especially as neither Romania, nor Serbia provided walks in the park for Denmark for them throughout the history and in recent times, as the Scandinavian powerhouse do not have a positive balance against either side.

Romania and Denmark have met numerous times in major international competitions or in the qualification phase of said competitions, with Romania winning 10 out of the 19 matches played between the two sides. Denmark have eight wins, while one game has ended in the draw.

While the maiden game between the two sides came at the inaugural edition of the IHF Women’s World Championship, in 1957, with Denmark taking a 6:1 win, the past three matches at the world handball flagship competition between Denmark and Romania were won by the latter side.

The streak started in 1995, when Romania took a 29:27 win, continued in 2005, when Romania beat Denmark, 33:29, on their way to their best-ever performance in the competition, the silver medal, with the last match being a fiery quarter-final in the Jyske Bank Boxen, the arena where the match in Group E will be played, at Denmark 2015.

That game was one of the most exciting ones in the knockout phase at the IHF Women’s World Championship, as Romania needed extra time to secure a 31:30 win, on their way to another medal, bronze, as Denmark were left emptyhanded when they last hosted the competition.

But Denmark, which are improving on a year-by-year basis, have won the last three mutual matches against Romania, 32:27 and 35:28 in the EHF EURO Qualifications, as well as a 21:17 win at the EHF EURO 2016.

In the last 12 years, Serbia and Denmark also met seven times, with Denmark taking only three wins, with Serbia winning three other matches, with the last meeting between the two sides at the IHF Women’s World Championship, at Japan 2019, ending in a stalemate, 26:26.

However, Serbia have made some steps back over the last years, as plenty of talented and experienced players met an end to their international careers. Stalwarts like Andrea Lekic and Dragana Cvijic, as well as Kristina Liscevic, will not be a part of the Serbia team anymore, a side which has dominated Denmark at the EHF EURO 2018, 30:25, but was clearly outpaced by the Scandinavian side last November, 31:24, at the EHF EURO 2022.

Since 2010, Serbia and Romania have met five times in the Qualifiers of the IHF Women’s World Championship and at the EHF EURO, with Romania taking three wins and Serbia sealing two wins. In 2015, Romania took a 56:54 aggregate win in the Qualifiers for Denmark 2015, extending their record as the only team in history to have qualified every time for the world handball flagship competition.

This might be the last edition of the IHF Women’s World Championship for Romania star Cristina Neagu, as the 35-year-old left back announced her international retirement after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. With Romania not having a ticket to the competition, their aim is clear – finishing between the top sides at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023 to have a chance to qualify.

All the European sides will be favourites against Chile, which will return to the IHF Women’s World Championship for the first time since 2009. Their only meeting against the three opponents was against Romania in the preliminary round at China 2009, 17:51.