The Netherlands prevail after shootout drama
At the end of the preliminary round at the Women's 19 EHF Championship in North Macedonia, Belarus and the Faroe Islands finished top of the group standings.
In the semi-finals on Saturday, however, the Netherlands and Poland showed that finishing second is no barrier to winning a semi-final.
The Netherlands required a penalty shootout to beat Belarus (25:22) in the first semi-final, while Poland saw off a spirited effort from the Faroe Islands (24:21) in the second semi-final.
- the match was decided by a penalty shootout after both teams drew 22:22 after 60 minutes
- the Netherlands ended Belarus's perfect record at the W19 EHF Championship in North Macedonia
- Belarus's Anastasiya Sivukha (eight goals) and the Netherlands' Catharina Molenaar (eight goals) finished as the top scorers
Belarus entered the first semi-final as the only team that still had a 100 per cent record at the Women's 19 EHF Championship in North Macedonia. As they established a 7:2 lead after nine minutes, they had seemingly carried the confidence gained from the preliminary round into the first semi-final.
However, an immediate timeout for the Netherlands followed – and it had the desired effect as a 4:0 run cut Belarus's advantage to 7:6. Although Belarus restored a four-goal advantage (10:6) in the 19th minute, with Anastasiya Sivukha continuing to add to her tally, the Netherlands had eight different players on the scoresheet by the break and were within touching distance.
The Netherlands carried their momentum from the end of the first half into the second half. When Catharina Molenaar gave them a three-goal lead (22:19) with just over seven minutes remaining, the outcome appeared settled.
However, the Netherlands failed to score on their next six shots, as Molenaar had three shots saved in the last five minutes, and Yuliya Ivanchykava's equaliser for Belarus ensured that the match was drawn after 60 minutes. Both teams headed straight to a penalty shootout to determine a winner, and the Netherlands won the shootout 3:0 to reach the final in dramatic circumstances.
- Poland became the first team to beat the Faroe Islands at this championship
- Rannva Olsen (five goals) was named as the Faroe Islands' best player, while goalkeper Aleksandra Hypa received the award for Poland
- Aleksandra Hypa made 14 saves at a 40 per cent efficiency rate for Poland
If you looked at the records of the teams from the preliminary round, the Faroe Islands were probably favourites for this semi-final. With just one win and a draw from their three matches, Poland needed to produce a top performance in order to reach the final.
In a low-scoring first half, the biggest gap that separated the teams was when Jana Mittún gave the Faroe Islands a 5:3 lead. The parity on the scoreboard at half-time was also reflected in the statistics for the goalkeepers as Rakul Wardum and Aleksandra Ypka both made eight saves in the first half.
When the match resumed after the break, Ypka denied Jana Mittún on three occasions in the first five minutes. Whilst Ypka's did not have an immediate impact on the score, Poland's attack grew in confidence as a consequence of knowing that their goalkeeper was in such good form.
With Oliwia Domagalska and Julia Niewiadomska finding the back of the net with some regularity in the second half, Poland's place in the final was all but confirmed when Niewiadomska scored in in the 56th minute to give them a five-goal lead, 21:16.
Cross matches (5-8)
Iceland vs Kosovo 37:23 (16:10)
North Macedonia vs Finland 31:25 (11:11)
We started the match with great intensity, but we couldn’t keep the rhythm up in the second half. Netherlands is very well prepared team, they were aggressive in the second half, and that is what was decisive today.