24 Nov. 2021
Two European sides – the hosts and Austria, who will make their comeback at the IHF Women’s World Championship for the first time since 2009 – will face PR of China and Argentina in a fiery Group H at Spain 2021.
The silver medallists at Japan 2019, Spain, are the favourites of the group and all eyes will be on them as they look for their first gold medal at the global flagship handball event. They will have the fans behind them, but a flawless start is a must in a tough tournament.
‘Las Guerreras’ have endured a tough year after a disappointing ninth-place finish at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, their worst-ever in the competition. This prompted a coaching change just months prior to Spain 2021’s throw off, as coach Carlos Viver was replaced by Jose Ignacio Prades, who has been tasked with galvanising the home team before the start of the IHF Women’s World Championship.
The hosts will be seen as overwhelming favourites in this group, with their experience, depth and home fans transforming them into one of the teams to beat in the competition.
They have a nearly immaculate record against their opponents in Group H, having never lost against Argentina in four games. Moreover, their wins against the South American powerhouse were nothing but walks in the park, as the two team’s history has been intertwined in the past decade.
Their first mutual game came in the preliminary round at China 2009, when Spain took a commanding 33:15 win. Four years later, at Serbia 2013, Spain enjoyed another clear win, 25:19, also in the preliminary round. There was also a clear 31:15 Spanish win in the Olympic Qualification Tournament for London 2012.
More recently, Spain doubled down on another impressive win, 31:16, in the Olympic Qualification Tournament for Tokyo 2020, which they also hosted in the Poliesportiu Pla d L’Arc in Llíria, one of the venues for the IHF Women’s World Championship.
The hosts will be also heavy favourites against China, despite their rocky start against the Asian team. At the IHF Women’s World Championship in 1993, Spain took a heavy blow (24:36) against China, only to bounce back with clear wins, 27:23 at the Olympic Games Athens 2004, and a 27:12 drubbing in 2009, when China were the hosts of the IHF Women’s World Championship.
The Spanish side also hold a positive head-to-head record against Austria, against whom they have a four-game winning streak, having lost only one game – the first one between the two teams, 20:16, when Spain hosted the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992.
However, Austria, who are making their comeback in the competition after a 12-year hiatus, will bring a young, but exciting team to the table, which have cut the gap between them and the European powerhouses in the last years.
Spain and Austria have met only once at the IHF Women’s World Championship, in the main round at Croatia 2003, when the Spanish side took a 27:26 win. The gap between the teams grew, as Spain took two clear wins, 25:15 and 33:26, in the Qualification Phase 2 for the Women’s EHF EURO 2016, but Austria were competitive in September 2019, when they conceded a 22:28 away loss in the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 Qualification Phase 2.
Austria have a negative head-to-head record against China, against whom they lost 16:21 at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984 and 21:22 at South Korea 1990, but secured a 23:21 win against the Chinese team at Norway 1993. More recently, the two sides clashed in a friendly game in 2011, won by Austria 29:26.
The game between Austria and Argentina will be their first competitive match, with the two sides meeting only once, in a friendly game in 2016, when Austria took a 22:18 win.
Therefore, it seems likely that the battle between China and Argentina will decide the third team to progress to the main round. If the head-to-head record is confirmed, then China could have the upper hand, after securing wins at China 2009, 25:16 in the preliminary round, and at Denmark 2015, when the 17/18 placement match ended with a clear 35:27 win for China.
However, the two sides also met in the preliminary round at Japan 2019, which saw Argentina take a convincing 34:28 win, after a dominant display from back Elke Karsten, who scored 12 goals.