30 Nov. 2019
Sweden finished fourth at the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championship in Germany, but started their 2019 world championship campaign in Japan with a tough first quarter against Democratic Republic of Congo in the final match of the opening day in Group D.
Swedish star player Isabelle Gulden was introduced to match action earlier than expected in the 60 minutes as she helped her side turn themselves around to take an eventual double-digit victory, 26:16.
Sweden vs Democratic Republic of Congo 26:16 (11:8)
While fans of the European side may well say their start against Democratic Republic of Congo was because of their own mistakes or even sluggishness, many neutrals watching will have been impressed with the African bronze medallists’ defensive display which saw them keep Sweden from taking a lead until Anna Lagerquist scored to make it 6:5 in the 16th minute.
Isabelle Gullden, in the Sweden squad of 16, had been expected to sit most of this, on paper, ‘easy’ match out after returning from pregnancy, but the truth on court was that DR Congo’s goalkeeper Nganmogne Audrey Murielle had already saved four attempts, including a Nathalie Hagman seven-metre, by the time coach Henrik Signell called a time out for his Swedish side with under 10 minutes on the clock (9:27) and the score 4:2 in favour of the DR Congo side.
Directly after the pause, Gullden was brought on court to make her Japan 2019 debut and her arrival immediately upped the European tempo, and eventually had an effect on the scoreline despite her side going 5:2 down after two Swedish turnovers in a row.
Two assists from Gullden helped her team come back to just 5:4 down before they drew equal, and another assist saw that Lagerquist go-ahead strike and her team were not behind again, finally breaking free at 9:7 in the 24th minute and not looking back in the second half.
“It became a little bit tougher than we expected as we hadn’t seen them play so many times that we are used to when we play against European teams,” said Signell after the match. "This made it a little bit harder, but we are satisfied with the win, and didn’t get any injuries.”
For DR Congo’s coach Celestin Mpoua Mkoua, it was a case of inexperience adding to the difficulties of playing such a strong team.
“We have a very young team with just a small amount of experienced players and this was the reason why this game was really hard,” he said. "Today we played a very good team in Sweden, who have a lot of experience in world championships and that’s why we were not so good – but will try to get better match-by-match.”
hummel Player of the Match: Anna Lagerquist, Sweden
Photo: Yukihito Taguchi/Japan 2019