Japan deal Serbia another blow to finish off Denmark/Norway/Sweden with a win

11 Dec. 2023

Japan deal Serbia another blow to finish off Denmark/Norway/Sweden with a win

Despite finishing on the 17th place, their lowest finish since 2015 at the IHF Women’s World Championship, Japan capped off an impressive edition of the world handball flagship competition with their second win against an European side, 22:20, against Serbia.

Main Round
Group III
Japan vs Serbia 22:20 (9:8)

As both sides were eliminated and could not go higher than the fifth place in the final standings of the group, both Serbia and Japan were aiming to finish the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship on a high, having previously won only one and two matches respectively.

Sure, Japan had the lion’s share of the schedule, facing four European opponents so far, with a four-goal loss against Romania being the worst result, while their win against Denmark is still the biggest shock in the competition so far and, therefore, they were favoured against Serbia, at least on paper.
Therefore, it was no surprise that Japan started off strong, with a 6:1 lead after 10 minutes, as their fast-paced style was too much for a Serbia side which failed to stop Japan’s attacks and was too slow in attack, which was no surprise, due to the European side scoring the second-lowest number of goals from the main round sides.

However, the overconfidence and the flawless start might have seen Japan lose focus and with a stint of 14 minutes and two seconds without a goal, the Asian side was quickly tied, 6:6, before they retook the lead with a goal from centre back Natsuki Aizawa.

Therefore, the match turned into a low-scoring affair, as Serbia imposed the rhythm they wanted, albeit missed some crucial chances to take the lead, with Japan still in front, 16:14, after 45 minutes, as the goalkeeper with the largest saving efficiency so far at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023, Atsuko Baba, providing seven saves for a 37% efficiency.

However, Serbia lost key left wing Sanja Radosavljević due to a red card, and centre back Jovana Jovović due to an injury, as their chances got slimmer and slimmer, with Japan eventually taking advantage until the end of the match.

The European side did indeed have the chance to finally cut the gap to only one goal in the last minute, but Baba produced a one-on-one save, to help her side preserve the lead, with Japan eventually taking a 22:20 win, their second against an European side in the competition.

Japan finish the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship with three wins and three losses and as the best-placed fifth side between the teams in the main round, they will now end up on the 17th place in the final standings.

On the other hand, Serbia recorded the largest number of losses in a single edition of the IHF Women’s World Championship, five, and ended up on the 21st place in the final standing, their lowest-ever finish in the competition.

hummel Player of the Match: Kaho Nakayama (Japan)