27 Sep. 2022
After 18 balanced games, which produced drama, surprises and everlasting memories, the first edition of the IHF Four-a-Side Wheelchair Handball World Championship concluded with Brazil taking the gold medal after a nail-biting final against Egypt.
Sure, history will remember the South American side as the winners after the most dramatic final of a World Championship in recent memory. Still, there are plenty of takes after the maiden international event in the discipline, which aims to become a Paralympic sport in the future.
Experience and nerves meshed at Egypt 2022
Challenges are always high when organising a competition of this magnitude for the first time in history. Still, the maiden edition of the IHF Four-a-Side Wheelchair Handball World Championship went on without a hitch in 6th of October, with all the six sides at the start – Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, the Netherlands and Slovenia – delivering excellent performances throughout the competition. Everything was top notch, from the classification of the players two days before the throw-off to the superb arena and ideal accommodation for the teams. While there were growing pains – the Netherlands, for example, had one of the most experienced sides but still finished fifth – all of the six sides clinched at least one win and had the experience of a lifetime, which they will hardly forget.
While Brazil have been developing the sport since 2005, earning a considerable experience over the last decade, teams like Egypt or India did not play a competitive match before the tournament, with the Asian side formed only a few weeks before the start of the competition. However, what they lacked in experience, they compensated with sheer will, taking the future world champions to the golden goal in the mutual game and winning their match against the Netherlands in the round phase.
Unpredictable nature makes wheelchair handball fun
After the round phase, Brazil were overwhelming favourites, securing first place in the group with five wins in five matches, without dropping even a set and needing a golden goal in only two sets – against India and Egypt. But the sheer unpredictable nature of wheelchair handball makes the discipline beautiful. It only takes a lost set to throw everything into disarray, and this is exactly what happened with Brazil in the final against Egypt. After taking the first set by a mile, 8:3, Brazil lost the second one, 6:7, and the title needed a tiebreaker to be awarded.
Egypt tied the tiebreaker with three seconds to go, converting a spin shot, which counts double the points, precisely like a 360-spin shot in beach handball, tying the game at 3-all and pushing the final into a penalty shoot-out. And it was where Brazil proved their experience, as they converted three out of the four penalty shots they had, while Egypt missed all three. It was proof that anything might happen, and this match will become a case study for teams trying to topple the discipline's powerhouses.
No limit for Egypt
We had mentioned before that Egypt and India only had a few weeks to prepare and deliver a competitive team. They did just that, playing their hearts out and overperforming in many moments during the tournament. Motivated by their quality of hosts and having a very experienced coach on the bench in Wael Abdelaaty Sayed Aly, Egypt delivered some crunch performances. They looked like they had been world champions themselves back in the day. Boasting three excellent players, who scored 59 of the 71 points during the tournament, Egypt had an event to remember. The Africans proved that anything can happen in the right circumstances and with the proper determination.
With four wins in six games, the African side proved that a well-coached and well-motivated team could overcome any obstacle, with sheer natural talent being able to transcend the limits and secure a medal in the World Championship.
Sublime performances rewarded with individual titles
But who were the players who stole the show at Egypt 2022? The hosts' fan favourite, Magdy Talaat Abdo Abbas, was the competition's top scorer with 37 points, being unstoppable at times with his powerful shot and lightning speed. Two MVP awards, one for the best Male Player of the tournament and one for the best Female Player of the World Championship, were awarded, and it wasn't easy to pick between so many stars.
Naturally, at least one MVP had to be awarded from the winning team. Guilherme Lourenço earned plaudits after scoring 12 points in the final, finishing with 36 points overall in the competition. Lourenço was remarkable in crucial moments, converted one of Brazil's penalties and was always a team player. In fact, Brazil had plenty of stars in the squad, with Jordean Rodrigues also shining with 24 points but missing the final due to a positive COVID-19 test.
The Female MVP of Egypt 2022 could not be any other than Netherlands' Joyce van Haaster. The Dutch goalkeeper had 38 saves throughout the tournament, for a 41.7% saving efficiency, and scored seven points, only two less than Chile's Luz Carrasco, who was the best female scorer of the tournament. Van Haaster, a former goalkeeper in indoor handball before being forced to retire due to a health scare, kept her skills intact and impressed repeatedly with her impressive saves.
Plenty of fans, newfound attention
A fun and unpredictable sport, wheelchair handball has attracted many new fans over the four days the first IHF Four-a-Side World Championship was played. The atmosphere for the final was electric, as the support for Egypt definitely hampered Brazil. This precedent will likely do only good for the sport, as the discipline has now been showcased at the highest levels. It will only grow and the next event, the Six-a-Side World and European Championship, is right around the corner, as it will be held in Portugal in November.