12 Aug. 2019
Unable to score for the first 10 minutes, host nation North Macedonia found it impossible to make back the deficit, eventually losing 31:22 to Japan, who finish the preliminary group stage with four wins in a row.
With the result, Japan now face Iceland and North Macedonia take on Portugal in the eighth-finals.
Japan vs North Macedonia 22:31 (11:15)
Boris Trajkovski Arena, Skopje
Japan beat North Macedonia by nine goals in a one-sided game which saw the host nation unable to score until just before the 10th minute. By that time, Japan were leading 6:0 thanks to five different scorers.
From that point on, the home side found their rhythm, going on to outscore the Asian silver medallists for the rest of the half but the damage had already been done, further compounded by the recent addition to the Japanese team, goalkeeper Rui Ishihama, making eight saves from 17 first-half attempts faced.
A second half comeback never materialised for the home side and Japan ended up outscoring their opponents by one more than they did in the first half (16:11).
The win for Japan meant it was their fourth in a row, but for coach Shinnosuke Uematsu, that is of little importance, with the next stage of qualification the most important.
“It doesn’t matter that we have won four games,” said coach Uematsu to IHF.info after the game. “What matters is that we got to the eighth-finals. “We watched a lot of films of the Macedonian team, so we were ready to defend and in the end we did.”
At the end of the match, many Macedonian supporters stayed behind to applaud the Japanese side and take selfies with their players as the knowledgeable handball crowd showed their appreciation in defeat.
“Handball is a traditional sport in North Macedonia,” added Uematsu. “We’re happy that the Macedonian people thought that we fought good and we are very happy to have that respect.”
Best Player of the Match: Kosuke Yasuhira (JPN)
Photo: WCH 2019 / Filip Viranovski