2019 World Korfball Championships Halfway View
Now the pool phase of the 2019 World Korfball Championships is over, we look back at the pool results and take a stab at the route to the medals. After that we look at the other potential rankings as well.
Pool A ranking is as expected. The Netherlands is the clear winner here. Czech Republic beats Catalunya in their first game and with that basically secures second place. In that game, Catalunya leads most of the first half, but has to allow a 10-9 half time lead for the Czechs. The second half Czech Republic is in control of the scoring, even leading 16-11 at one point. This game already shows that Catalunya is a weaker side than in recent years. This is confirmed on day 3, when a solid New Zealand loses to Catalunya by a mere 15-13. The Kiwi's are able to get to a two goal difference a fair part of the second half and that is a great accomplishment for this newcomer on the global korfball scene.
Czechia seems to have upset The Netherlands enough in their confrontation to make Dutch coach Wim Scholtmeijer speak of a weak performance by the current World Champion. The main task the Czechs seem to have set themselves in this game is defending closely and that seems to have worked out well.
Final ranking from 1 to 4: The Netherlands, Czechia, Catalunya, New Zealand. Solid result from Czechia, Catalunya seems to be weaker and a good debut from New Zealand so far, just no points.
Pool B has the predicted ranking, although that plays out differently than anticipated by most people. Taiwan ends first in the group fairly unchallenged. Fairly because their first game against Ireland has them in a shock when it's a level 10-10 at half time. The second half is business as usual for the aspiring medallist. With half time 4 substitutions they give Ireland hope until 12-12 and then the Asian train speeds off to 22-12. The dust settles at 27-14 for Taiwan. Poland put their bench on the pitch against Taiwan, so that was an uninteresting game. Australia starts similarly, but puts on some regular starting players and gets a fairly decent amount of goals in against the Taiwanese.
The rest of the ranking is the result of some pretty interesting games, with Poland having to thank Lady Luck on their bare knees for both the game against Australia and Ireland and ending second in this group. Australia seems weakened compared to 2017. They manage to come back from being 2-8 behind after ten minutes. They manage to get back to 17-17 and even take an 18-17 lead. Poland manages to go to 18-21 and wins 19-21.
The game between Australia and Ireland it's the Aussies that dominate most of the first half, but Ireland that goes into half time leading 10-11. The second half it's Australia that controls the scoring and wins 22-20. It's never a sure victory though, again Ireland shows a good performance. in the Poland - Ireland game it's the Irish that dominate most of the first half, but Poland manages to level the score to 7-7 at half time. Second half Ireland is again in control and all seems lost. Then Poland manages to get level again to 13-13 by substitute Doroszuk. Just as it seems to go into golden goal it's Rafal Diadik who scores an impossible buzzer beater, claiming second place for Poland.
Final result from 1 to 4: Taiwan, Poland, Australia, Ireland. Taiwan seems vulnerable but mostly unchallenged. Of the three others Poland is the luckiest but will have to improve to get a good result. Grumpy man Rubinkowski delivered most so far for Poland and Diadik is the hero for now. Australia seems weaker than 2 years ago. We think they miss May, Othen, Robertson and Berney. Ireland is able to field a more athletic squad with discipline and a plan. Sadly for them it gets them no points yet, but they are bound to come.
In pool C Belgium seems to be in solid form after their 2018 European Championship deception. Also a real threat is missing in this group. England puts up a solid score against Hong Kong, a decent score against Slovakia, but is no threat to Belgium, losing 27-13. It's also the only game where Neala Brennan is missing on the England score sheet. Somehow the only Trojans player to end up in the England squad, she is deadly on day one. Patel seems to be the most consistent scoring player for England.
Slovakia and Hong Kong have a close game over avoiding fourth place in this group. Both squads play adequate, but fail to score enough. In their confrontation on day three, Hong Kong seems unable to counter the height difference, although Slovakia isn't particularly blessed with tall players compared to some other European countries. This means Slovakia leads during most of the game, except 16-16 when it seems Hong Hong has a chance. Slovakia secures victory with a 16-18 win.
Final result from 1 to 4: Belgium, England, Slovakia, Hong Kong. Belgium seems ready to work for a medal, the other squads don't impress me much. Hong Kong is a bit unlucky and seems to have a bit of a setback in dealing with taller squads.
This pool causes most excitement and enthusiasm for us. China has to work very hard to claim first place and is the only squad forced into a golden goal. Surinam is responsible for that, but also Hungary tests China to the core. On day three the Hungarians take a lead of no less than 2-9 against China after ten minutes. Although the score is back to a 14-15 Hungarian lead at half time, a light earthquake is registered in Durban as Ben Crum gives his half time speech to China. Second half Hungary keeps working hard and scoring regularly, but Chinese Terminator Jing Zhao shows she is a scoring machine, scoring six of her total of ten goals during this game in the second half, being of vital importance to the Chinese 29-24 victory.
With Surinam losing to China only with a golden goal and beating Hungary with a solid 24-12 on the first day, they show their potential during this championship. With Black Pearl Gerald van Dijk and other 36-year old Ivan Karsters both bringing crucial experience and goals to their squad, Surinam is doing well as expected. With Hungary shaking China at their roots, the question in hindsight is why they lose so big to Surinam...
Interesting is that a Hungarian win over China would have put them in second place in points already because of the golden goal between China and Surinam, leaving China with five points where Hungary would have six.
The only non interesting team in this pool is Macau, who gains mainly experience from this first ever appearance at a world championship.
Final result from 1 to 4: China, Surinam, Hungary, Macau. China is vulnerable when the unstoppable scoring women can be slowed down and the opponent is able to score consistently. Surinam is swinging and a bit sloppy, which may cost them victories. Hungary surely is ready for a top eight position. The most spectacular pool for us.
Portugal and Germany battle it out again in an epic struggle where tactics, discipline and passion are the main ingredients. Goals are scarce during their confrontation, where Portugal dominates most of the game in scoring. Painful for Germany is when in the second half they have long attacks with many shots, but fail to score their goals.
Japan can celebrate their first World Championship victory after a decent win over a weak host South Africa. In our prediction we are clearly too optimistic over the progress made by South Africa. Both Portugal and Germany leave them in the dust and the Japanese 10-19 victory is also almost with a double digit goal difference. That doesn't stop a group of enthusiastic South African supporters from chanting during all games and stealing the show. It's a small compensation for a disappointing performance by the only African representative.
Final result from 1 to 4: Portugal, Germany, Japan, South Africa. Portugal is almost at their form of last year, Germany should fly in some scoring players and Japan will be singing karaoke all night after knowing they will be at least sixteenth. South Africa will be grateful for the participation of Macau.
These results bring Ireland as the best number four, also when counting the goal differences. Their level is rewarded with going to the top sixteen phase.
Top Eight Predictions
So where do we go from here? What can be said about the next games and the squads that will go for the ultimate two games for the medals? We feel that for a big portion we can. We take the match schedule for the upcoming days, rub Aladdin's lamp and have him grant us a prediction.
The first round of knock-out games, the eight finals, bring us these confrontations:
- Belgium - Hungary
- Taiwan - Japan
- Poland - Germany
- Netherlands - Ireland
- England - Surinam
- China - Slovakia
- Portugal - Catalunya
- Czechia - Australia
We look forward to this first game to see how Hungary will do against Belgium after their great performance against China. We predict Belgium to be stronger than China, so Belgium will win against Hungary, but still it can be an interesting game. Or not. Let's hope it will be. Of the other games we feel comfortable pointing out a winner with low probability of an upset.
This will bring us to the following quarter finals in the top eight of the championship. Here the scheme is against Germany, who basically have no realistic chance at a higher position than five, meeting The Netherlands. In that sense their defeat against Portugal is huge. The games are:
- China - Portugal
- Taiwan - Surinam
- Belgium - Czechia
- Netherlands - Germany
For us the most interesting game is China - Portugal. The passionate Portuguese show they can bring disruptive strategies on the table against their opponents, similar to Hungary. With Portugal being of a higher level than Hungary and Hungary already tearing China to shreds in the first quarter, picking a winner for this clash is a tough one. Their last confrontation is from 2015 when Portugal - China ends in 17-22. That is at a World Championships where Portugal is clearly weaker than now. A comparable game from the 2017 World Games is China - Great Britain, where China wins 27-24. With Portugal showing consistent form and China being vulnerable, we favour Portugal. China needs rebounding to give confidence to their Terminator women. With Pedro Correia and Ayres, Portugal has two air masters to frustrate Chinese rebound. And with Catarina Correia they have a female defender that may even strike fear into the heart of Jing Zhao, Qing Wang or Xin Li. The scoring of these women against Surinam shows they may need some less pressure to really score their goals.
With Surinam leaning largely on their Black Pearl and the men in general, Taiwan should win against the strong newcomer from the America's. Korfball Hero Ya-Wen Lin will have a harder time against the Surinam women than usual during a quarter final. With the gold medal ambitions of the Asian number two of the world, they should win this game for sure. It's not a done deal though.
Belgium will win from Czechia. Their comeback is solid enough to hold off the Czechs, who have a decent championship so far. The result for Netherlands - Germany is already mentioned as a no-brainer.
Potential Top Four
The semi finals for the top four then will most probably be Taiwan - Belgium and Netherlands - Portugal. China has the biggest chance to be in this group of medal contestants instead of Portugal. If all goes to plan, this should get us a reprise of the two 2018 European Championships final games, with Taiwan taking the place of Germany in the final. At this stage, Belgium losing to Taiwan is not a done deal. Taiwan will be tested more in the quarter finals than Belgium, facing Surinam. Should this play out, then Belgium gets an ultimate opportunity for revenge for 2018, which they may take. We hold off a prediction for the final top four ranking until later.
Potential Five to Eight
For places five to eight we should see Germany - China and Surinam - Czech Republic. For us China has the slight odds over Germany at the moment. Surinam should beat Czech Republic, resulting in a reprise of China - Surinam for fifth place. Should Portugal lose from China in the quarter finals, then they face Germany again in the semi finals. Either way the match schedule has multiple options for squads meeting each other a second time in the championships.
Places Nine to Sixteen
Let's give the second bunch of eight contestants the attention they deserve and see if we can play out their route with similar certainty. We start with these games in their quarter finals:
- Ireland - Poland
- Slovakia - Catalunya
- Japan - England
- Hungary - Australia
The first one is immediately the one with the highest uncertainty. Coach Koopmans will have to get his Polish squad perform more consistent to hold off the Irish horde a second time. With the surprise gone at both ends, we feel Ireland has a slightly better chance to come out on top, should they tweak their endgame. Unless their losses ultimately are a matter of stamina, then Poland will come out on top again.
Catalunya should beat Slovakia, despite being weaker than in recent years. England is the lucky loser here, facing Japan. Nothing less than a clear victory will do here. Hungary now owes it to themselves to beat Australia as well and the odds are in their favour. As much as we love Australia, we see less promise in this squad from down under.
Potential Nine to Twelve
The semi finals for places nine to twelve will be Ireland (or Poland) - Catalunya and England - Hungary. We are already getting goosebumps for the clash England - Hungary. With this form, Hungary could take England. Or will they collapse on stamina somewhere? Since we see a realistic possibility for Ireland to beat Catalunya, there is a chance that Ireland ends above England in the ranking. We go for an Irish and Hungarian victory, having them going for ninth place and Catalunya and England going for eleventh place.
Potential Thirteen to Sixteen
The semi finals for places thirteen to sixteen will then be Poland (or Ireland) - Slovakia and Japan - Australia. Poland should beat Slovakia and Australia is most likely to beat Japan, meaning Poland and Australia meet again for thirteenth place and Slovakia meets Japan for fifteenth place.
Places seventeen to twenty
The desire of IKF to increase the number of participants leads to these four countries taking on each other for the bottom four places: New Zealand, Hong Kong, Macau and South Africa. With the system of these squads playing each other, all squads should gain experience at a level more fitting to theirs. Based on their performance, it will be between New Zealand and Hong Kong for places seventeen and eighteen. Since South Africa look a slightly lesser beating than Macau and hopefully lots of South Africans chanting for their squad, the only African participant has the bigger chance to avoid last place.