Mixed emotions for stars at World Championship
Cristina Neagu has been on fire and Sandra Toft has played like a wall so far. But the French stars, like Amandine Leynaud, Beatrice Edwige or the Metz players, are already out of the title race, as is Hungary’s Aniko Kovacsics.
The preliminary round of the Women’s World Championship 2019 has caused several upsets.
While obviously most DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League players taking part in Japan have made it through to the main round, some starts failed to stay in the race for the medals - or for berths for the Olympic qualification tournaments.
France missed the main round
There were contrasting fortunes for the many internationals in the squad of Györi Audi ETO KC. Leynaud and Edwige lost the do-or-die game (20:18) with France against Denmark, with teammate Anne Mette Hansen.
France, the 2017 world and reigning EHF EURO champions, missed the main round after winning just two of their five games in the preliminary round, against Australia and Germany.
The other teams’ results came to the benefit of Germany, boasting Brest left back Shenia Minevskaya and Rostov line player Julia Behnke.
Thanks to the Danish win, secured by outstanding Brest goalkeeper Sandra Toft, and their lucky draw against Korea, they advanced to the main round with three points, joined by Denmark and Korea.
Hungary lost thriller against neighbours Romania
Györ’s Hungarian internationals lost a thriller against neighbours Romania, despite a six-goal lead. But Neagu secured the Romanian victory by converting a penalty in the closing seconds.
That important goal raised Neagu’s tally to 40 goals, an impressive achievement regarding the fact she had only just returned from an 11-month injury layoff.
Spain surprisingly topped group C with five wins from five matches, including the duel with Montenegro and their many Buducnost players.
Krim wing Stanko starred - but Slovenia are out
Another Champions League star led the top scorers’ ranking after the preliminary round: Krim wing Tjasa Stanko scored 45 times as Slovenia had a flying start beating Netherlands by six goals.
However, in the end Slovenia missed qualification for the main round from group A following crucial defeats against Serbia and Angola.
Even without top star Andrea Lekic, Serbia made it through in the group, where Netherlands grabbed top spot after they finally beat Norway again (30:28), for the first in almost 20 years. Odense’s Tess Wester played a crucial role between the posts.
The result helped the Dutch side progress with the maximum four points, while Norway continued with two and Serbia with zero. Germany started the main round on three, Korea on two and Denmark on one.
IT'S BEEN 20 YEARS! We might have had a little laugh with @tessiewester yesterday, but there was nothing funny about her performance today 💪. The @Handbal_NL 🇳🇱 keeper was IMPOSSIBLE to beat, leading them to their first win vs Norway 🇳🇴 in 20 years and the first place in Group A pic.twitter.com/yxqRT5x7L6— IHF (@ihf_info) December 6, 2019
In group D, the Russian stars, mostly from Rostov, were on fire as they won all five matches of the preliminary round. They also defeated runner-up Sweden, by eight goals (30:22), their smallest winning margin.
Hosts Japan took third in this group, but progress to the main round without points. Spain and Russia each took four points with them, Montenegro and Sweden two each, and Romania - like Japan - zero.
Stars have a lot to play for
The main round will last until Wednesday. The world champions, to be crowned on Sunday, earn a direct ticket to the Tokyo Olympics, while six more teams will get a berth for the Olympic qualification tournaments.
From the 12 teams left in the race for the world title, only Japan and Korea have already qualified for Tokyo 2020. So the many DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League stars have a lot to play for over the next few days.Author: Björn Pazen / ew