Examining Group H: Dutch favourites to see hefty challenge in crunch group

20 Nov. 2023

Examining Group H: Dutch favourites to see hefty challenge in crunch group

With only nine days before the start of the 26th IHF Women’s World Championship, the first one in history to be co-hosted by three countries – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – the 32 teams are getting ready for the competition, as the final touches are applied, with few things being able to change in such short time.

The final group examination sees four sides – two European sides, one South American team and an African team – with the Netherlands, Czechia, Argentina and Congo vying for the three main round berths, which are available in this group.

With a silver medal at Denmark 2015, a bronze medal at Germany 2017 and the gold at Japan 2019, the Netherlands have been one of the most consistent teams in recent years, as their golden generation has provided plenty of excitement and some extraordinary matches and excellent results over the years.

Two years ago, at Spain 2021, the Netherlands have failed to make the quarter-finals for the first time since 2013, but they bounced back with a sixth-place finish at the EHF EURO 2022, with the same core of players which will be at Denmark/Sweden/Norway 2023 taking centre stage.

With the Netherlands welcoming back Estavana Polman, Lois Abbingh and Tess Lieder, three of the top players at Japan 2019, including the MVP and the top goal scorer, Per Johansson’s side will be favoured in this group, especially as they hold the head-to-head advantage against both Czechia and Argentina.

From the six matches played between the Netherlands and Czechia, the Dutch side took four wins, including two out of three matches at the IHF Women’s World Championship, most recently in the quarter-finals at Japan 2019, 30:26. The two sides have also met in the Qualification Europe for Denmark 2015, when the Dutch side won at home, 33:23, only to concede a 23:25 away loss, proving their worth in a fiery scenario.

Against Argentina, the Netherlands also have a positive head-to-head balance, but the two sides will face off for the first time in history at the IHF Women’s World Championship. Both Dutch wins came at the Olympic Games, in the group phase at London 2012 and Rio 2016, with a 30:21 win in their first meeting and a 26:18 win in the second one, with a clear pattern emerging.

The South American side will be a part of the world handball flagship competition for the 11th time in a row, having made the main round for the first time in history at Spain 2021. They will be favoured to make it there for the second time in a row, as they have more experience than Congo, who returned to the competition in 2021 after a 14-year wait.

The only mutual match between Argentina and Congo came at China 2009, in the President’s Cup, when the South American side won by a nine-goal margin, 35:26, with the gap looking still big enough for Argentina to be considered favourites.

On the other hand, Czechia, which will see their coach, Bent Dahl, make his debut in a major international competition, have a positive balance against both Argentina and Congo. The only meeting between the European and the South American side came at Germany 2017, when Czechia took a 28:22 win, on their way to the quarter-finals, in the best-ever competition for the Czech side.

Against Congo, Czechia secured three wins, two as Czechoslovakia, 23:10 at the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, and 30:13 at the 1982 IHF Women’s World Championship, while their most recent encounter saw the European side clinch a 24:21 win in the main round at Spain 2021.