01 Dec. 2023
Senegal are back at the IHF Women’s World Championship for the second time after debuting at the 2019 edition in Japan. The side did not make it to Spain 2021, as they ranked fifth at the continental championship that served as the qualification, but in 2022, in a sign of continued development, they clinched their second ranking in the top four at the African Championship within the last three editions to secure their place at DEN/NOR/SWE 2023.
“It will be the second time for us to compete in World Championship and, as the first time, it’s always a big and amazing feeling to be part of this incredible competiton,” says back Fanta Keita. “For this second time, we just want to prove again the potential of our team and see how we evolved since the last time.”
After placing second at the first edition of the African Championship in 1974, Senegal fought to make it back to the top four and finally achieved that in 2018 (second place), which led them to the World Championship in Japan. At Japan 2019, Senegal played some strong preliminary round matches and were rewarded for their fight with a victory over Kazakhstan and some close results against experienced teams like Romania and Montenegro — two sides that ranked in the top four in Europe in the last five years.
Although Senegal ultimately placed 18th at Japan 2019, they won the hearts of fans in Kumamoto.
“The things that we learnt at our first World Championship in Japan were about the intensity during games. Each game is a fight with full power and a lot of speed. For the win and to go further in the competiton, you need to be prepared to fight,” says Keita as Senegal look ahead to the start of their DEN/NOR/SWE 2023 campaign on Friday.
“Also, the tactical and technical part is important for winning against these teams, especially during important times during the match. Personally, what I learnt last time is that every detail is important.”
Senegal will play in Group A in Gothenburg, where they will face World Championship co-hosts Sweden, People’s Republic of China and, first up, Croatia.
“For this preliminary round, the goal is to go to the main round. We want to go and make one step more than the last time. After, as every competing team, the goal is to win the most maches and go as far as possible,” says Keita.
Considering the close results achieved in Kumamoto, Senegal’s debut in 2019 can be regarded as a very strong one. Losing to Romania, who had played the semi-finals at the EHF EURO one year previously, by five goals was impressive. In round 1, in what was their first ever World Championship game, Senegal were defeated by Montenegro by only four goals and even led the game by one at half-time. Kazakhstan had played four World Championships before they met Senegal at Japan 2019, with the African side winning the game by 10 goals.
If that was the first venture, then coming in with more experience now, Senegal look to be in a strong position to secure one of the three main round places available in the group. So how has the team changed and developed since 2019?
“I think since the World Championship in Japan, the team got more experience and became stronger. We also have new players that were not here in the last World Championship, so it will be interesting to see how it will be against the other teams and how we will expand during the competiton.
“The team is more competitive and more experienced than the first time, and we hope that we will play our best handball to show the power of this team,” concludes Keita.