Look Back: Kazan 2018 – IHF Women’s Beach Handball World Championship

17 May. 2022

Look Back: Kazan 2018 – IHF Women’s Beach Handball World Championship

With the 2022 IHF Women’s World Championship throwing-off in Heraklion on the island of Crete in Greece next month, takes a look at the last championship, held four years ago in Kazan, after Pescara 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

The event: The eighth edition of the IHF Women’s Beach Handball World Championship, featuring 16 teams, took place in Kazan, Russia from 24 to 29 July 2018. 

What was new: It was the first IHF Women’s Beach Handball World Championship to feature 16 teams, expanded from 12 at the previous edition, Budapest 2016. It was also an opportunity for teams to qualify for the inaugural 2019 ANOC World Beach Games.

With the expanded competition, it provided the chance for Greece, France, Mexico and Vietnam to qualify for their first-ever championship. The USA were also appearing in their first championship after being awarded an IHF Wild Card to help the nation develop competitively ahead of the nation hosting the World Games. 

The competition: Four preliminary groups of four teams saw the top three in each go through to two main round groups of six. The bottom team in each preliminary group dropped into a consolation round.

The top four teams in each main round group then went into the knockout stages, starting with the quarter-finals, then semi-finals and medal matches.

Who won: Greece caused a sensation on their debut, winning the title.

Review: The preliminary group stage saw reigning world champions Spain alongside Poland, The World Games 2017 winners Brazil and 2017 European champions Norway – who came into Kazan with three consecutive bronze medals in the last three World Championships – all finish unbeaten and on top of their respective groups.

However, in their very first game of Kazan 2018, Spain faced Greece and were taken to a shoot-out, eventually winning. A bit of luck for the debutants and slow start from Spain? 

Only time would tell…

Oceania champions Australia, alongside debutants France, Wild Card entry USA and Mexico played the consolation round, as they finished bottom of their groups, without a win. 

In the main round, Spain and Brazil were unstoppable, winning all their matches and they went through to the last eight along with Poland, Greece, Paraguay, Russia, Norway and Denmark.

Brazil beat Paraguay easily 2-0 in the only non-European quarter-final, while all other matches were decided in the shoot-out: Greece crushed the dreams of hosts Russia, Norway defeated Poland and Denmark lost to Spain.

Both semi-finals kept the spectators on the edge of their seats as Norway beat Brazil 2-0 after two close sets (18:19, 20:22) and Greece sensationally reversed that opening loss, pushing Spain into a shoot-out and taking a 6:2 win.

While the bronze-medal match, a rematch of the 2016 final, was won by Brazil without difficulties, the surprise final between Norway and Greece went to shoot-outs again, a situation Maria Karantoni and her Greek side had become used to, having gone to that situation in five of their seven games in Kazan to that point.

The southern Europeans then used their shoot-out experience to claim a 5:2 victory and gold in a championship which they had started as underdogs.

“What just happened? We took first place in the world? I cannot believe it – it is too soon,” said Greece coach Maria Kantoni to moments after the victory. “I remember the goal, but I can’t remember what I felt. It sounds amazing, I can’t believe it.”

Kazan 2018 - Women

Most Valuable Player: Juliana Oliveira – Brazil

Top Scorer: Edna Viridiana Uresti Valencia – Mexico: 123 points

Fair Play Team: Norway

All-Star Team:

Goalkeeper: Magdalini Kepesidou – Greece 
Left Wing: Maren Aardahl – Norway 
Pivot: Maria Asuncion Batista Portero – Spain
Right Wing: Patricia Scheppa – Brazil
Specialist: Vasiliki Skara – Greece
Defender: Elisabeth Hammerstad – Norway

Final Ranking:

1. Greece
2. Norway
3. Brazil
4. Spain
5. Denmark
6. Poland
7. Russia
8. Paraguay
9. Vietnam
10. Uruguay
11. France
12. Mexico
13. Chinese Taipei
14. USA
15. Thailand
16. Australia

What happened next: Aside from the national, regional and continental competitions, the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games took place in Doha, Qatar in October.