05 Dec. 2022
The Republic of Korea extended their winning streak at the AHF Asian Women's Handball Championship to 35 games and secured their 16th trophy in 19 editions of the continental competition after surviving a scare in the final against Japan, which they eventually won (34:29) after extra time.
It was an exciting tournament in Seoul and Incheon, in the Republic of Korea, as 10 teams lined up in the competition, divided into groups of five, with the first two teams in each group progressing to the semi-finals.
Korea and Japan were coming into the final undefeated, with the hosts delivering some excellent handball in their first official matches under the new coach, Denmark's Kim Rasmussen.
In the preliminary round, the hosts had little trouble disposing of their opponents, boasting a +119 goal difference in the four games they played, where they conceded only 49 goals in 4 matches.
Japan also secured a four-game winning streak in the preliminary round in the other group but evidently had more trouble than Korea. Their most challenging match was against the People's Republic of China, a team that thoroughly improved over the last years. It kept Japan in check until the final whistle, when China conceded a 26:29 loss.
Korea and Japan duly delivered excellent performances also in the semi-finals, with Japan taking a 43:19 win against the Islamic Republic of Iran, while Korea won comfortably (34:16) against China.
This meant that for the fifth edition of the AHF Asian Women's Handball Championship, a final between the Republic of Korea and Japan was on the cards after Korea had previously won the other four in emphatic fashion, including a 33:24 win in 2021, in Amman, Jordan.
However, this was far from the walk in the park Korea expected in their capital Seoul. In the 11th minute of the game, Japan were up 8:2, with a shellshocked host team failing to bring anything to the table.
Slowly but surely, Korea bounced back, cutting the gap, but Japan were still up six goals, 16:10, at the break, looking increasingly likely to secure their first continental trophy since 2004 and their second in history.
Yet Korea's experienced side was not deterred. They first cut the gap to only one goal (19:18) with 19 minutes to go and eventually tied the game in the 53rd minute, with the regular time score being tied (27:27).
Two extra-time halves followed, with Korea riding high on the excellent performance of right back Ryu Eun Hee, who scored 19 goals in the game, as the hosts eventually sealed the trophy with a 34:29 win after extra time.
Ryu, the All-Star right back of the tournament, was seconded by an excellent centre back in Migyeong Lee, who added nine goals, helping her side secure the 16th trophy in 19 editions of the competition.
The bronze medal was won by the People's Republic of China, who totally dominated the Islamic Republic of Iran, in a 39:24 rout.
It was China's 17th medal in the competition – with 10 silver medals and seven bronze medals – with the same podium being registered in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021, in fact, in four of the last five editions of the competition.
Japan's 23-year-old centre back Natsuki Aizawa was named the MVP of the competition, having dazzled with her game and her importance in the team in all the six games played in the tournament.
The 2022 AHF Asian Women's Handball Championship was also a qualifying event for the 2023 IHF Women's World Championship, with five teams earning their tickets to Denmark/Norway/Sweden next December.
Besides Korea, Japan, China and Iran, Kazakhstan will also be present at the world handball flagship competition after winning the Placement Match 5/6 against India (42:31).
2022 AHF Asian Women's Handball Championship – final standings
1. Republic of Korea
3. People's Republic of China
4. Islamic Republic of Iran, 5. Kazakhstan, 6. India, 7. Thailand, 8. Uzbekistan, 9. Hong Kong, 10. Australia
Photo: Asian Handball Federation