Four all-European clashes to deliver group winners, with main round berths still to be clinched

04 Dec. 2023

Four all-European clashes to deliver group winners, with main round berths still to be clinched

The preliminary round will conclude on Monday in Groups B, D, F and H at the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship, where there are still main round berths to be secured, while the winners of the first two matches are facing off for a chance to start the next phase with four points.

Just two games remain of the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship for Stavanger to savour as the preliminary round comes to a close in the 11th century, central Norway city.
And the first is a cracker, with a winner-takes-all clash between Angola and Iceland. The team which wins goes through to the main round in Trondheim, joining Slovenia and France from Preliminary Group D, while the loser moves into the President’s Cup in Frederikshavn, northern Denmark.

In Helsingborg, Cameroon and Paraguay are facing off for the last place in the main round, while Hungary meet Montenegro for the top spot in the group.

Czechia and the Netherlands are battling it out for the first spot in Group H, while Germany and Poland clash for the points in Group F, with all-European battles ready to deliver some exciting drama.
Group B
18:00 CET Cameroon vs Paraguay

It will be a do-or-die match for both teams, who are still aiming to find their footing at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023, after two losses. A main round spot is at stake, as the winner is certain to finish third in the group and go through to the next phase. 

In their second matches, both teams improved their attacking performances. After scoring just 11 goals in an opener against Montenegro, Cameroon hit the 20-goal mark against Hungary but lost 20:39, while Paraguay, who had netted just 12 times in their first match against Hungary, did better against Montenegro and even led 5:1 early in the match, but ultimately lost 26:41.

In case of a draw, Cameroon will progress as they have a better goal difference, -33, compared to Paraguay's -38.

Cameroon and Paraguay will face off for the first time at the IHF Women's World Championship. At this level, Cameroon met South American opponents twice, but were defeated both times. In turn, Paraguay lost three of their four matches against the African opponents, but beat Algeria 29:19 at Serbia 2013.

For both sides, reaching the main round will be a chance to seal their best-ever result at the world flagship competition, after Cameroon finished 20th at Germany 2017, and Paraguay ranked 21st at Serbia 2013 and Germany 2017. 

20:30 CET Montenegro vs Hungary 

Both European sides boast a perfect record so far, as their two wins in as many games allowed Montenegro and Hungary to secure early main round berths. The winner of their clash will not only finish top of the group, but also take four points to the next stage and will be in pole-position for a quarter-finals berth.

On Saturday, Montenegro beat Paraguay 41:26, and while Bojana Popovic's team did well in attack, the head coach was not satisfied with the number of conceded goals.

"It should have been at least 10 fewer. But it is a good lesson. Now we have a tough match with Hungary ahead of us, and we have to prepare for it," she said.

Right back Tanja Ivanovic, who became the hummel Player of the Match on Saturday, is also expecting a difficult game: "We all know the Hungarian players very well, I played there and I know a lot of players. They have strong and fast defenders, but we need to concentrate on defence, to be strong and not give up on ourselves". 

Montenegro defeated Hungary in both their previous encounters at the IHF Women's World Championship, 32:15 at Denmark 2015 and 25:24 at Japan 2019. But now Hungary are determined to take revenge and claim their third straight win at the tournament. 

On Saturday, Hungary defeated Cameroon in the absence of two wings Greta Marton and Viktória Győri-Lukács, who had suffered minor injuries against Paraguay. But as they are expected to be back on Monday, the team will further increase their attacking potential.

"It will be a difficult match, but we want to end the group stage with a win. We need a very tough defence, and we want to keep technical errors on a low level and score easy goals," said right wing Alexandra Töpfner, who scored four goals on Saturday. 

Group D
18:00 CET Angola vs Iceland 

A draw or win against Iceland will be enough for the African champions to qualify through to the main round at the expense of the European wildcard entry.
With the better goal difference, goals scored and conceded, Angola have all the cards in their favour but they should be careful of their opponents who have impressed in Norway so far, giving Slovenia a fright in their opening game and then keeping France in touch for large parts of their eventual nine-goal loss.
Impressing in that match was goalkeeper Elin Jona Thorsteinsdottir who was awarded best player for her 14 saves, but she will need to be at her best again in their final preliminary group game.
Angola nearly beat the Olympic champions in their opening game in Stavanger, losing by one goal, but were missing the spark against Slovenia last time out, losing 24:30.
Very recent history is in Angola’s favour with Nelson Catitio’s side beating Iceland just last week in a friendly (27:24). The two teams have met once at this level, in Iceland’s debut – and only previous appearance – at Brazil 2011 – with a similar scoreline (28:24) in favour of Angola.
21:00 CET France vs Slovenia 
Both teams have maximum points from their two games so far and have already qualified through to the main round, but only Slovenia have truly impressed, despite missing a number of key players from their record finish (8th) at the European Championship last year.
France have laboured to their two victories so far and could face a familiar player in Slovenia’s Ana Gros, who played her club handball in France across an eight-year period.
The influential Slovenia captain has not been missed so far by her team, her hamstring injury being looked after on the sidelines, but with the winners of this match taking an extra two points through to the main round it means more than finishing top of the group and the team will make a decision on the day if Gros could feature.
“It was certainly the most difficult championship to start with two victories,” said Slovenia coach Dragan Adzic to
“During the preparations, we were accompanied by many challenges. I am immensely grateful to the girls for putting so much energy and effort into our project, which led us to have four points on our account and a guaranteed place in the second part of the competition.”
The two teams last played at the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship in Spain, with France taking a clear 29:18 victory.

Group F
18:00 CET Japan vs Islamic Republic of Iran

Japan were close to winning against both Germany and Poland, but failed to deliver in the crucial moments of the game, conceding two losses in their first two matches. Now, the Asian side will be looking to seal a main round berth against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran won people's hearts in Spain 2021 and even though they finished second to last, they earned some much-needed experience. Now, they are aiming to win their first-ever match in the competition, but lost in all four previous encounters. 

The closest game was three years ago, at the 2020 AHF Asian Women's Handball Championship, when Japan won, 23:20.

Now, the two sides will be pitted together with Japan as overwhelming favourites, after Iran conceded 80 goals and have a goal difference of -43 in their first two matches, while Japan’s Natsuki Aizawa was the joint top scorer of the competition after two rounds, with 15 goals.

20:30 CET Germany vs Poland

Germany and Poland have maximum points after they delivered convincing wins against Iran and snatched hard-fought wins against Japan. Now, the clash between the two sides will decide who will win the group and how many points will the already qualified teams take into the main round.

Even though Germany could be the favourite, based on the head-to-head record, winning ten out of their 16 mutual encounters, the last official match saw Poland put up a serious fight, conceding a 23:25 loss. This March, a friendly game went in Germany's favour, but again on a two-goal margin (32:30).

“In the last matches against the German side, we showed a very good performance, despite minimal defeats. It shows we can keep up with them,” said Polish line player Sylwia Matuszczyk for

German head coach Markus Gaugisch was also careful when talking to about the next opponent, knowing what is at stake: “Poland has developed in a similar way to us, they started making changes to the squad around the same time and are now playing much more flexibly than before, especially in defence. “Poland plays with force and physicality and also has a top counter-attack game with great wings.”

In terms of goals scored, Germany hold the advantage, 76 to 67, while Poland have conceded less, 45, yet Markus Gaugisch’s side will win the group if the game ends in a draw, provided they have a better goal difference, +24, then Poland’s +22.

Group H
18:00 CET Argentina vs Congo

The winner of the game between Argentina and Congo will determine the last team progressing to the main round from Group H. While Congo can only go through with a win, Argentina have the draw and the win available, with a better goal difference, -24, than Congo’s -30.

“Against the Czech Republic, we were fighting for the sixty minutes of the game, trying to close the gap. What is good about this team of young and experienced players is that we always all go in the same direction and that is what builds the Argentine spirit, especially for the upcoming matches,” said Argentinian goalkeeper Marisol Carratú.

Argentina and Congo both conceded 72 goals after two rounds played, placing them around the bottom of the goals received table. However, 'La Garra' are boasting a more efficient attack, netting 48 times compared to Congo's 42. 

In their only encounter at the IHF Women’s World Championship, Argentina claimed a 35:26 win against Congo. 

20:30 CET Netherlands vs Czechia

The Netherlands proved their favourite status in the first two games of the 26th IHF Women's World Championship and they have a chance to make it three out of three and start the main round in Frederikshavn with four points when they take on a sturdy Czechia side.

Czechia are also riding a two-game winning streak, against Argentina and Congo, as backs Marketa Jerabkova and Charlotte Cholevová leading the pack with 14 and 13 goals scored respectively. The two players, alongside wing Veronika Malá will be relied upon once again in Czechia’s most difficult match so far.

Czechia's players will now have to find a way to stop an efficient Dutch attack, who currently sits atop of the standings, boasting the best efficiency so far, with 40.5 goals scored per match in the previous two rounds.

“It is a very strong opponent, among the top five teams in Europe. We know their qualities, but we will fight. We never give up,” emphasised Czechia's head coach Bent Dahl.

The Netherlands and Czechia have met two times so far at the world flagship competition. In both matches the Netherlands were the victorious side, claiming a 30:26 win in the quarterfinals in 2017 and a 25:21 group win in 1999.

WHERE TO WATCH - For those fans who cannot come and experience the fast-paced action of one of the most popular sports in the world live, there are numerous opportunities to watch and listen to the competition through a variety of television, radio and streaming outlets across the globe – thanks to our partner SPORTFIVE, the official media distribution agency of the IHF.