Seven European teams reach quarter-final but Dutch are out

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EHF / Björn Pazen

Seven European teams and the champions of South America have made it to the quarter-final of the Women’s IHF World Championship 2021 – but this line-up does not include the defending champions.

Titleholders Netherland went out following a 37:34 defeat to Norway on Monday night. The Scandinavian side, just like the three other group winners France, Denmark and hosts Spain as well as group 2 runners-up Sweden, are still undefeated in the tournament.

Germany and Russia are also still in the race for gold, while Brazil are the only non-European contenders in the quarter-final, which starts Tuesday.

Denmark face Brazil in the first quarter-final, followed by Spain taking on Germany. On Wednesday, the remaining quarter-finals France vs Sweden and Norway vs Russia are identical to the semi-finals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics last August.

Close battle for quarter-final spots

Main round group 2 saw the closest battle for quarter-final spots, with the reigning world champions taking on the reigning European champions: Netherlands needed a point against Norway in the last match to make it through – after Sweden had earned a surprise draw with Norway earlier.

Netherlands started strongly, building an impressive six-goal lead (12:6) halfway through the first half, but Norway had levelled at the break (17:17).

The Scandinavians punished the Dutch for their mistakes in defence – with Henny Reistad netting nine and Nora Mørk eight time – and wrapped up the win as Netherlands failed to score from four consecutive chances at 36:34 in the closing minutes before goalkeeper Silje Solberg scored the last of the night, sending Norway and Sweden through. Netherlands and fourth-place Romania went out.

The result meant that once more a world champion failed to defend their title two years later; the last time it happened was Russia, winning in 2007 and 2009.

In the other three main round groups, the teams advancing had already been confirmed before the final playing round.

In group 1, the two Olympic finalists had already made it through before they met for the final match, with France cruising to a clear 33:28 win – which didn’t even reflect the difference properly as France led by nine goals (27:18) in the middle of the second half. Serbia finished third, ahead of Poland, Slovenia and Montenegro.

Also in group 3, Denmark and Germany were guaranteed their quarter-final berths before meeting each other in the last round. Putting in their best effort of the tournament so far, Denmark handed Germany the biggest defeat in their World Championship history: 32:16, thanks to a stunning performance by goalkeeper Althea Reinhardt who saved 62 percent of all German shots. Hungary had higher hopes but were eliminated as the third-ranked team.

And in group 4, hosts Spain won their group thanks to a 27:24 win over Brazil in a duel of two previously unbeaten sides in what was arguably the weakest main round group. Japan were the strongest challengers and finished third, as EHF EURO 2020 bronze medallists Croatia had a disappointing campaign and Austria were hit by numerous Covid-19 cases in their squad.

While all four semi-finalists of the Tokyo Olympics four months ago (France, Russia, Sweden, and Norway) have now also made it to the quarter-finals at Spain 2021, the other four teams were not involved in the Olympic quarter-finals: Spain and Brazil were eliminated earlier in the tournament, while Denmark and Germany had not even qualified for Tokyo 2020.

Women’s IHF World Championship 2021, quarter-final:

Tuesday, 14 December:
17.30 CET: Denmark vs Brazil
20.30 CET: Spain vs Germany

Wednesday, 15 December:
17.30 CET: France vs Sweden
20.30 CET: Norway vs Russia


Friday, 17 December:
winners DEN/BRA vs winners FRA/SWE
winner ESP/GER vs winners NOR/RUS

The medal matches will take place on Sunday 19 December. All matches from the quarter-final onwards are staged in Granollers.

The only European team that failed to make the main round, Slovakia, have reached the final of the President’s Cup, where they meet African champions Angola on Tuesday.

Current top scorer is Sweden’s Nathalie Hagman, who scored 62 goals so far, including a record 19-goal outing against Puerto Rico, one better than Dutch player Bo van Wetering, who scored 18 against Kazakhstan. Hagman will likely win the top scorer’s award as the next player still in competition is Alexandrina Barbosa of Spain with 33 goals, 29 less than Hagman.

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