On Tuesday July 24, Australia’s men’s and women’s teams will begin their campaigns at the 2018 IHF Beach Handball World Championship in Kazan, Russia. Among the 24 nations contesting the event, Australia is one of eight where both the men’s and women’s squads qualified for the World Championship.
Overall, it is the fourth World Championship for Australia’s men’s side, and third for the women’s. The men’s team have ranked 12th three times, in 2010, 2012 and 2016, and finished 11th in 2014. The women’s side placed eighth on their debut in 2012, ranked 12th in 2014 and reclaimed eighth at the most recent World Championship, in Hungary in 2016. Both teams also played the 2017 World Games, ranking sixth.
For some time, it has seemed Australia’s teams are right on the cusp of a notable success, and both squads hope 2018 will be their year to push ahead to a higher final position.
“After our strong performance at the World Games in Poland last year, we are aiming to place well in our group stage followed by a solid performance in the quarter-finals to give ourselves a chance to compete for a medal with the top teams of the world,” says women’s team coach Boris Mensing.
“The team has prepared stronger, with more determination, in the lead up to the World Championship. We have built on the experience we gained at the World Games and players have become more versatile and are able to trust one another in any of the position on the field.”
“The World Championships are always a tough competition. Based on the growth and development of the team over the past two years, we are aiming to progress to the main round and a top-eight finish,” says men’s coach Patrik Weiss.
“Since the last World Championship, we have significantly changed the way we play. We have learned from the best teams and found our own brand of beach handball, with a highly structured yet creative game plan resulting in great improvements from the 2017 World Games. We are looking to build on this development and the experience of our players.”
The women’s squad will begin their campaign in preliminary Group A, where they will meet defending world champions Spain, Greece and Paraguay.
“Our group is a very strong and challenging group with the current world champions Spain. Paraguay performed very well in their qualifying tournament and so did Greece out of a large pool of countries in Europe,” says Mensing.
The men’s team will play from Group C, taking on Qatar, Oman and Denmark.
“We have a very strong group and a healthy respect for each of the teams: Qatar being top three, Denmark back on the world stage and looking to impress, and a competitive history with Oman,” says Weiss.
It is not only Australia that will represent Oceania at the Beach Handball World Championship, as the New Zealand men’s team received the wild card and will therefore make their debut at the event. New Zealand will start in Group B, facing Spain, Hungary and Vietnam. While the New Zealand men’s team have never competed at the Beach Handball World Championship, the women’s squad have played one campaign, ranking 12th in 2010.
At the 2018 World Championship, the top three teams in each of the four preliminary groups will progress to the main round groups, from where the four top-ranked teams qualify for the quarter-final stage. More information on the World Championship can be found on the official website (handballrussia2018.com), where live streaming of matches will also be available.
Text by: Courtney Gahan