Five talking points after the conclusion of the main round at North Macedonia 2022

06 Aug. 2022

Five talking points after the conclusion of the main round at North Macedonia 2022

Eight teams have made it to the knock-out phase at the 2022 IHF Women’s Youth (U18) World Championship, as we see several surprises among the best teams in the world in this age category. We are taking a long look on what has happened until this moment in the event, highlighting the teams that were hot, but also taking a look on why others were not.

62.5% of the quarter-finalists from Poland 2018 return to knock-out phase

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the previous edition of the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship, due to be hosted by Croatia in 2020, was cancelled, therefore leaving a gap for a generation that did not get to play in the competition. However, from the previous tournament, Poland 2018, five teams that made it to the top eight in the world have kept their place – Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, the Republic of Korea and Denmark. The latter three are the most consistent teams in the history of the competition, having finished inside the top 10 at every edition they took part in, while Hungary have only recently established themselves as a youth powerhouse, joining the top eight teams for the third consecutive edition.

Out of the top eight teams four years ago, Russia were excluded from the competition due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Spain ended up in the President’s Cup and will fight in the 17-20 placement round and Germany were underwhelming, but will still feature in the 9-12 placement round with their last-gasp win against Romania. This means that a staggering 62.5% of the teams that made it to the quarter-finals in Poland 2018 are back in this phase of the competition at North Macedonia 2022. Only three out of the eight sides – France, Iceland and Egypt – have not previously won a medal at the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship.

Egypt and Iceland write history

Talking about surprises, Egypt have been one of the sides that have thoroughly impressed at the 2022 IHF Women’s Youth World Championship, becoming the first-ever African side to clinch a quarter-final berth and will have the chance to become the best-ever African team in the competition, with Angola finishing eighth in 2008, when the system of the championship was different.

With four wins and a single loss – against Denmark in the last match of the main round – Egypt seem to have a bright future ahead of them. They have the fourth best attack at North Macedonia 2022, with 165 goals scored in five games, an average of 33 goals per game, but the most striking thing about Egypt was their handball IQ. Their ball handling, tactical nous and sheer strength is truly impressive, making this generation of Egypt a thing to watch in the future.

As Egypt rose from their ashes, as they finished 23rd at Poland 2018, another rookie made it to the quarter-finals. Unbeaten in five games, with four wins and a draw, Iceland have been thoroughly surprising, riding their strong defence for a historic performance at North Macedonia 2022. While their attack has not been stellar, their defence was the best in the competition, conceding only 90 goals, an average of 18 goals per game, with wins over Sweden and North Macedonia and a draw against Montenegro highlighting their potential.

New records for a goals-galore tournament

With the introduction of new rules in the past that made handball more dynamic, the average number of goals has also soared, with the 2022 IHF Women’s Youth World Championship the highest scoring in history. Over the 79 matches played so far in the competition, there have been 4,455 goals scored for an average of 56.39 goals per game – the largest in history, more than one goal higher than the previous record, set at Slovakia 2016, with 55.36 goals per game.

There is an uptick of over five goals per game since the previous edition, Poland 2018, when 51.29 goals were scored per game. North Macedonia 2022 also brought the two largest-scoring matches in history, as Uzbekistan and Algeria combined for 91 goals in the President’s Cup, while Croatia and India scored 90 goals between them in the preliminary round, trumping the previous record of 84 goals in a single game. Uzbekistan (171 goals) and Croatia (167 goals) are also two of the top three highest-scoring teams, with Spain also putting 171 goals past their opponents in their first five games.

Five Asian players among the top 10 scorers

Therefore, it is no surprise that the current top scorer of the event comes from a side that has only secured their first-ever win in the competition in the last match of the President’s Cup, Uzbekistan. Sevinch Erkabaeva has been nothing short of amazing throughout the competition, scoring 46 goals in five games – an average of 9.2 goals per match with an efficiency of 59% – with 27 of those goals coming from throws from the 9-metre line. Interesting enough, after the conclusion of the main round, five of the best 10 scorers in the competition come from Asia. Erbakaeva is joined by Korea’s Minseo Kim, who is second with 40 goals, India’s Jassi, in fourth place with 37 goals, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Fatemeh Merikhi, the sixth top scorer with 36 goals, and Korea’s Seojin Kim, whose 34 goals are enough for the joint-eighth place in the standings.

Four backs and two wings from Europe complete the top 11 of the scorer charts, as Croatia’s Andjela Zagar is third with 39 goals, while Denmark’s Julie Mathisen Scaglione is fifth with 37 goals, after displaying some amazing games in the main round, where she scored 17 goals against Croatia and Egypt. Scaglione, the All-star left back at the W17 EHF EURO 2021, is a prime candidate to be named in the North Macedonia 2022 All-star Team as well.

Expectations vs reality

But who are the sides that did not live up to the expectations in this tournament? First of all, Germany will surely be left pondering what could have been after conceding two losses, against the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands, barring their entrance to the quarter-finals. The W17 EHF EURO 2021 silver medallists will now play in the 9-12 placement round, as their back line has been hit and miss throughout the whole tournament, while the defence has not been up to par.

Romania, who were crowned winners when the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship was played last time in North Macedonia, are also one of the teams that did not live up to their potential, as they failed to seal a point in the main round, conceding losses against the Republic of Korea and Denmark, cancelling their three-game unbeaten run from the preliminary round. They will now enter the 13-16 placement round, where they will be favoured to beat Iran and the winner of the tie between Portugal and Brazil.

Another side that will be counting their losses is Norway, whose attack missed the input of Stine Bore after the left back got injured against the Czech Republic. A powerhouse at this level, the Scandinavian side had the sixth weakest attack in the competition, averaging 24.4 goals per game. However, their path to the quarter-finals was littered with powerhouses like France and Hungary, as they scored only 38 goals against the two sides combined.

Last, but not least, hosts North Macedonia entered the main round with three wins in a row, but failed to secure a win in this phase, drawing against Sweden and conceding a painful loss against Iceland, in a match where a draw would have been enough. Backed by a fanatic crowd in the Boris Trajkovski Sports Centre, the hosts were eliminated and will try to enter the top 10, which will be their best-ever finish in the competition.