Examining Group F: Two African sides face a sturdy challenge from Denmark and the Republic of Korea

16 Nov. 2021

Examining Group F: Two African sides face a sturdy challenge from Denmark and the Republic of Korea

One of the biggest rivalries in the last two decades, the one between Denmark and the Republic of Korea, will be rekindled in Group F at the 25th IHF Women’s World Championship, as the two powerhouses are joined by two plucky African teams, Tunisia and Congo, who will eagerly battle for a main round berth.

Denmark and Korea were two of the best sides between 1996 and 2005, as they faced off for the Olympic title twice, at Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004. Each time, the winner was decided after regular time elapsed, with Denmark sealing the gold medal in 1996 after extra time, 37:33 and doubling up in 2004, after a penalty shoot-out, 38:36.

In fact, the Danish side have an overwhelmingly positive head-to-head record against their Asian counterparts, winning five of the mutual eight games played, with the Korean team winning only once, in the preliminary round of the Olympic Games London 2012, 25:24. 

The two teams also met two years ago at Japan 2019, where the game ended in a stalemate, 26:26, after a crunch game in which right back Ryu Eun Hee scored nine goals.

Therefore, Denmark will be the big favourites to win the group, avenging their third-place finish at Japan 2019 in the preliminary round, two places behind Korea. 

The Danish side seem to be on an upward path, after finishing fourth at the EHF EURO 2020 last December, a tournament they hosted. With a tactical mastermind in Jesper Jensen on the bench and a hungry generation of players, Denmark are primed to finally be back on the biggest of stages, after finishing sixth twice, at Denmark 2015 and Germany 2017 and ninth at Japan 2019.

They also boast a positive head-to-head record against Tunisia, after winning two matches in the preliminary round by 12 and 18 goals. For the third time in the last four IHF Women’s World Championship editions, Denmark will face the African side, looking to build on their 32:20 and 37:19 wins at Denmark 2015 and Germany 2017.

Denmark will also face Congo for the second time in their history, after securing a clear 37:24 win in the preliminary round at China 2009.

For the Korean side, who boast the experience and depth needed to succeed in this group, it will be the first time ever they face Tunisia. However, the Asian team has won their last three matches against African opposition, while they also won the only game played against Congo, 36:19, at Denmark/Norway 1999 in the preliminary round.

The matches against Tunisia and Congo will be pivotal for the Korean side’s future in the competition, in their challenge to break into the top-10 for the first time since China 2009. 

They also look to be in fine form, securing the gold medal at the 2021 Asian Women's Handball Championship last September, sweeping their opponents, including a clear 33:24 win in the final against Japan, despite not being able to rely upon right back Ryu Eun Hee.

With Denmark and Korea looking primed to be fighting for the top two places in the standings, the last qualifying place will likely boil down to the mutual meeting between Tunisia and Congo.

The two teams will rekindle their rivalry, which dates back to 1976, when Tunisia took a 10:5 win in the final of the African Women's Handball Championship. Since then, Tunisia and Congo have faced off 10 other times in competitive matches, including in the President’s Cup at France 2007, when Tunisia earned a clear 24:16 win.

In fact, Tunisia won seven of the 11 matches against Congo, including the last four, three of which came at the African Women's Handball Championship, 26:22 in 2012, 32:30 in 2014 and 26:25 in 2016.