14 Dec. 2019
On Sunday 15 December in Kumamoto, Japan, one team will write their name in the history books as the first of their nation to claim the IHF Women’s World Championship title. For the Netherlands, it is the second final appearance after they were defeated by Norway in the trophy match in 2015. For Spain, the final marks their debut in this stage of the competition.
Spain vs Netherlands
20:30 local time, Park Dome Kumamoto
Both teams have previously won bronze medals at the World Championship, with the Netherlands taking theirs at the previous edition in Germany in 2017, while Spain last had their hands on this piece of silverware in 2011. That third place was Spain’s best result at the World Championship up until now, so they have already made history with clinching at least the silver medal.
For the Netherlands, the gold medal is the only one missing, following the silver at Denmark 2015.
While the Netherlands’ presence in the final could have been expected due to their appearance in the semi-finals at every major international championship since 2015, when they reached the top four for the first time in history – and have since firmly remained there at the World Championships, European championships, and Olympic Games – Spain have been something of a surprise package.
As for many teams at Japan 2019, Spain arrived with a place in the 2020 Olympic Qualification Tournaments as the central focus – but now they have a new goal.
“I think it was a dream to come to the semi-final. So, for now, we have a new goal – first one was to be in the pre-Olympics. Now, of course, it’s to fight for the gold medal,” said Spain back Mireya Gonzalez before the semi-final.
Spain may even qualify directly for Tokyo 2020, as the winner of the final will join Japan, France, Brazil, Republic of Korea and Angola as participants in the next Games. While the Olympic Games are certainly a motivation, the first objective for both sides is the trophy at Japan 2019.
While both teams have collected some medals in their history, neither have ever taken a gold. The Netherlands have celebrated all their biggest successes in the last four years, with the two silver medals coming at the 2015 World Championship and the EHF EURO 2016, then the bronze from the 2017 World Championship and EHF EURO 2018. In addition to their Brazil 2011 bronze, Spain placed third at the 2012 Olympic Games. They also finished as vice-champions at the EHF EURO 2008 and EHF EURO 2014.
Neither team arrived at the semi-finals with a perfect record, although Spain enjoyed better results. Spain did not lose a match until they faced Russia on the final main round day, after qualifying for the main round as winners of Group C. The ‘Guerreras’ then placed second in Group II due to the defeat versus Russia and a Montenegrin victory over Sweden in the group’s closing game.
While Spain opened their Japan 2019 campaign with a clear win versus Romania, the Netherlands were defeated in their first match, by Slovenia. However, they recovered and topped Group A, with a win against Norway – their first in 20 years – the highlight of the preliminary round for the Dutch. Like Spain, the Netherlands place in the semi-finals came down to a clash between two other sides in their group’s last main round match, as they were in a strong position in competitive Group I but relied on certain results in the Norway versus Germany encounter.
The results went their way and Spain and the Netherlands progressed, and both overcame powerful opponents to reach the trophy match. The Netherlands overthrew Olympic champions Russia 33:32 in their semi-final, and Spain produced an impressive defensive display against Norway to earn their final berth with a clear final score line, 28:22.
The Netherlands Lois Abbingh enters the court for the final as the second top scorer at Japan 2019, and will take the crown from Republic of Korea’s Eun Hee Ryu if she scores six goals or more in the final.