Main round berths ready to be awarded in eight-match card on Saturday

02 Dec. 2023

Main round berths ready to be awarded in eight-match card on Saturday

Several teams should seal main round berths, as the second round gets underway in Groups B, D, F and H in the preliminary round at the 2023 IHF Women's World Championship.

Both Slovenia and France could seal their passage through to the main round of the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship action on Saturday with their second, consecutive wins in Preliminary Round Group D in Stavanger, Norway, while in Group B, Montenegro and Hungary could seal their ticket to the next phase with wins.

The same goes for Germany and Poland in Group F and for the Netherlands and Czechia in Group H, with the European sides all being on the cusp of progressing to the next phase of the competition.

Group B
18:00 CET Paraguay vs Montenegro 

As expected, Montenegro started the tournament with a clear win, 25:12 against Cameroon. Although their attacking performance was far from perfect, the Europeans were clearly dominant on the court, and the difference in quality between the two rivals was obvious.

Good defence and solid goalkeeping were the key to success, and Marta Batinovic did a great job in goal in the first half, stopping 11 of 13 shots as Cameroon scored just twice.

"We know that it is always difficult at the start, we are under pressure. Marta was fantastic in the first half, and also Marina Rajcic in the second. It's a team victory, and all the players had a role. The most important thing is that everyone could feel the World Championship. We will pay attention to the mistakes, and I believe that there will be less pressure in the second game," Montenegro's head coach Bojana Popovic said.

Montenegro will now face Paraguay, a battle between two female coaches, as the South American side is coached by Marizza Faria. The Europeans will again be the favourites, and a win will send them through to the main round.

On Thursday, Paraguay lost against Hungary 12:35, and while it will be very hard for to snatch any points from Montenegro, the South Americans hope to fight hard and accumulate some more experience against another strong European opponent, which finished third at the last EHF EURO. 

20:30 CET Hungary vs Cameroon 

Just like fellow European team Montenegro, the Hungarians did not face any problems in their opening match, defeating Paraguay by 23 goals, as the two teams are on a collision path for the first place in the group in their last match of the group.

Goalkeeper Blanka Böde-Bíró boasted a 45% save efficiency, while 11 her teammates found their names on the scoresheet, and although none of them netted more than five times, coach Vladimir Golovin was pleased with the team performance.

"We are happy with the goal difference. We expected such a game, and we can be satisfied. Our defence worked well, and Blanka Biro did a great job, which made the difference. I am confident that everyone will get more into the game in the next matches," he said.

Their next rivals, Cameroon, faced big problems in attack in the first half of their opening meeting with Montenegro, scoring just twice in 30 minute, with their first goal coming after 24 minutes. However, the African side improved after the restart, losing the second half only by three goals, which should be a good point to start for this match.

Now they hope to build on that second-half performance in the match against Hungary – but, of course, the European side will be heavily favoured to win and secure an early spot in the main round. 

Group D
15:30 CET Slovenia vs Angola 

The fifth meeting between these two teams in an IHF Women’s World Championship is a crucial one. 
If Slovenia win, they will be guaranteed a spot in the main round, while an Angola win will see them draw equal with their European counterparts on two points.

Despite Slovenia defeating Iceland by six (30:24) and Angola losing to France (29:30) in their respective opening games on Thursday, it was the African champions who were most impressive, nearly recording a draw against the Olympic champions but for the width of a post.

Slovenia could still be missing influential captain Ana Gros, with her coach Dragan Adzic saying he has “no news yet” on her return. With or without Gros, they will have to perform much better on Saturday to get a positive result.

“I think they're a great team, they have a great squad,” said Slovenia’s Tjasa Stanko to about Angola.

“We watched their first half [against France] in the hall [and they will be a] very challenging opponent. France couldn't develop their game against them so we will do our analyses and see what we can do.

“They also have a good rotation,” she added. “Since we played them in 2017, they have progressed a lot in all segments of the game.”

That 2017 match was Slovenia’s only win in the four they have played so far in the world championship, 32:25 (15:15). They first met at the 2005 IHF Women’s World Championship with Angola taking a 28:27 (12:12) win. At Japan 2019, Slovenia suffered a 24:33 (12:16) loss while the two teams drew 25:25 at Spain 2021.

18:00 CET Iceland vs France 

While Olympic champions France got off to a slow start against Angola in their opener, they did just enough to take a one-goal win and collect two points.

“We have a lot of stress and I don't know why,” said France coach Olivier Krumbholz after the Angola victory. “But it was very important that we have the victory and I hope that in two days we will play better.”

France are notorious slow starters at the IHF Women’s World Championship, having created a two-win streak to start the competition only twice in the past five editions, a stat which they will try to improve here, at Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2023.

Wildcard entrant Iceland lost their opener against Slovenia by six, but had come within one goal midway through the second half, having pulled themselves back only to run out of steam.

The two teams have never met in an IHF Women’s World Championship, with France holding a 5-0 series victory in their previous, EHF EURO qualification meetings.

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

Germany threw off the 2023 IHF Women's World Championship with a hard-fought win against Japan and will seal a main round spot if they beat the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their 31:30 win against the Asian side came in the last second after they had ups and downs throughout the match.

The first games in the major competitions are always the hardest, and Markus Gaugisch’s players aim to improve in the upcoming matches. They will have a chance to tweak some things in both attack and defence against underdog Islamic Republic of Iran, which started the competition with a clear 15:35 defeat against Poland.

While the attack has been left looking for more in the first match, Iran had some excellent performances from their goalkeepers, Fatemeh Khalili Behfar and Haniyeh Lak., in the first match. A 29% saving efficiency was excellent in the first match against Poland, with plenty of fast breaks for the European side, as Iran will need to focus more on protecting the ball when using a seven-on-six attack.

“We are of course approaching the game very seriously and looking at what we can improve compared to the game against Japan,” said Germany's hero Xenia Smits who delivered the winning goal against Japan for

This will also mark the first-ever clash between these two teams and only the third time the Islamic Republic of Iran face a European team at the IHF Women’s World Championship. At their first world flagship competition in 2021, the Islamic Republic of Iran were defeated by Romania (11:39) and Norway (9:41).

20:30 CET Poland vs Japan

Japan still have a bitter taste after their last-gasp loss against Germany in the first match and now have to pull out their best performance against another European side, in order to keep main round dream alive.

On the other hand, if Germany win against Iran, Poland will also go through to the main round if they do not lose the match. Poland had a strong start against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and will try to keep the same momentum against a fast-paced Japan side.

“We need to focus on the next opponent, Japan. Games like the one against Iran can be difficult when the score is so high in your favour. Concentration then slips away. We wanted to play the match against Iran and win. The most important thing, however, is what is yet to come,” said right wing Magda Balsam, producer of six goals.

On the other hand, Japan will rely once again on Natsuki Aizawa, who had an outstanding match against Germany, with 10 goals and nine assists. If it is to judge by the former clashes, Poland have the numbers on their side. In four encounters at the World Championship, they claimed three victories. However, the last 23:17 win for Poland was recorded 26 years ago, with Japan vastly improving since that moment.

Group H
15:30 CET Czech Republic vs Argentina

Bent Dahl's team had a successful start to the 26th IHF Women's World Championship beating Congo, 32:22, in the first match and are now in the position to clinch their main round berth with a win against Argentina, a team they had previously beat 28:22 in their last encounter, at Germany 2017.

Even though they will have to do without Kamila Kordovská, who suffered a serious injury in the game against Congo, the team led by Marketa Jeřábková and Charlotte Cholevová is a slight favourite in their next match. If Czechia further improves their shooting percentage, which is now at 66 per cent and goalkeeping duo Sabrina Novotna and Petra Kudláčková maintain their shot-stopping skills, Argentina have an arduous task ahead.

“Argentina surprised me a bit. I have never seen them play so well. The Netherlands is a very strong team that eventually went on to have a great victory. But we must be well prepared,” said Dahl about their next opponent for

Despite having a good number of players featuring in European clubs, Argentina could not keep up with the Netherlands and lost by a 15-goal margin, mostly due to technical faults in the attack. Against Czechia, Argentina should try to keep their fast transition going and find a better solution in making a chance for their wing players.

18:00 CET Congo vs Netherlands

Crossing the 40-goal mark in the first game at the world flagship competition is a good sign for the attack of a side and certainly the Netherlands fired on all cylinders when they beat Argentina on Thursday.

Being able to test all the players in the first match was a great opportunity for head coach Per Johansson, as the real challenges at the 26th IHF Women's World Championship are yet to come, as the Netherlands are looking to confirm their main round spot with a win against Congo.

The connection between centre back Estavana Polman and right back Dione Housheer worked flawlessly, netting seven and six times each respectively. After years of absence from the national team, line player Yvette Broch also made her comeback with two goals.

Congo did not have it easy against Czechia, losing 22:32 with only left back Betchaidelle Ngombele looking really sharp throughout the match. Congo have progressed further to the main round at Spain 2021, but at this year's edition of the world flagship competition, the same goal seems like a more difficult task.

An inexperienced team for this level, Congo need to learn from their mistakes and have a more steady attack if they want to improve in their maiden clash against the Netherlands.