The Netherlands won their first ever title at the 2019 Women’s World Handball Championship. By winning the nation has also qualified to the Olympics. Overall, 24 nations competed in four groups where the top three advanced to another group stage. Afterwards the top two from those groups would advance to the semi-finals. The Women’s World Handball Championship was held in five cities across Japan from November 30th to December 15th 2019.
Group A came down to the Netherlands and Norway going into the final game. At the time the Netherlands lost 32-26 to Slovenia while Norway was undefeated. Despite leading 18-14 at half-time, the Netherlands was able to comeback to win the match and group 30-28. Third place for the group was also decided during the final set of matches where Serbia defeated Slovenia 29-27 to advance to the next group stage.
Defending World champions France had a poor start to the competition where the lost to South Korea 29-27 and drew Brazil 19-19. Wins over Australia and Germany meant France was still in control of their fate, needing a win over Denmark to advance to the next round. Unfortunately for France, Denmark was able to win the match 20-18 to eliminate the champion. The group was won by South Korea who went undefeated, but also had two draws against Denmark and Germany. Germany also advanced as the second place team.
Group C ended with a clash between two undefeated teams as Montenegro and Spain played for the top spot of the group. In a tense match the game was decided in the final seconds where Cabral Barbosa scored the deciding goal for Spain to win the match and group 27-26. Also advancing in third place was Romania who despite trailing Hungary 10-16 at half-time during the final set of matches was able to comeback to win the match 28-27.
Defending Olympic champions Russia was the top team in Group D where they defeated their opponents by at least eight goals including a 30-22 victory over Sweden whom finished second within the group. Host nation Japan also advanced to the next round as the third place team thanks to victories over Argentina (24-20), Congo DR (28-16) and China (35-18).
The results between advancing teams carried over to the second group stage. The first group saw the Group A nations generally over power the Group B nations. However, a 27-24 Denmark over Netherlands victory meant Norway won the group thanks to having wins over Denmark (22-19), South Korea (36-25) and Germany (32-29). The Netherlands were still able to advance to the semi-finals as the second place team.
The second group again saw the strength of the Russia team as they continued to be the only undefeated team with wins over Romania (27-18), Montenegro (35-28) and Spain (36-26). Despite Spain’s loss during the final set of group matches, Sweden’s 26-23 loss to Montenegro meant Spain also advanced to the semi-finals.
Both semi-final encounters were thrilling affairs with Russia and the Netherlands having multiple lead changes and neither team holding more than a two-goal lead. A final minute goal by Laura van der Heijden gave the Netherlands a 33-32 victory. The Norway and Spain match had Norway comeback from a four goal deficit to level the game 13-13 at half-time, but Spain again took control of the match to win the game 28-22 to advance to their first ever World Championship final.
In the final, it was Spain that took the early lead, but a late rally by the Netherlands allowed them to take a 16-13 lead going into half-time. The second half saw Spain slowly close the gap until the game was tied with second remaining. However, a penalty shot goal by Lois Abbingh at the final seconds gave the Netherlands the 30-29 victory to win their first ever World title. The bronze medal match was won by Russia who defeated Norway 33-28.
Nations ranked second to seventh, namely, Spain, Russia, Norway, Montenegro, Serbia and Sweden will have a second opportunity to qualify to the Olympics via the final Olympic tournaments against nations qualified through their respective continental qualifiers. The final six teams will be decided at those tournaments to be held in March.