The dream of the 2018 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship hosts continued as they became the first through to the semi-finals. Hungary defeated Romania by a five-goal margin in the opening quarter-final on Wednesday afternoon in Hall Fonix, Debrecen, making their way to the semi-finals in this competition for the first time since 2012.
The second game of the day saw a close match between Russia and the Netherlands, decided only with the last goal and save in the final 60 seconds. However, the closest game of the day was yet to come: Norway and France played the only quarter-final to be decided in extra time, with Norway securing the place in the penultimate match.
Quarter-final: Romania vs Hungary 26:31 (17:14)
Once again it was a goalkeeper who was the star of the match for Hungary, though it was mainly in the second 30 minutes that Bino Boglarka stood out. After coming on late in the first period, Boglarka saved 12 shots at 48%, including a penalty in the 58th minute when it became clear the outcome of the match was decided.
Just as Slovenia did in the eighth-final, Romania gave Hungary a scare in the opening period, as they claimed the lead in the 23rd minute and raced to a three-goal lead at half-time. At that point, Romania relied on their backcourt consisting of Sorina-Maria Tirca, Raluca-Maria Petrus and Andreea Tecar, who all scored five goals before the break.
Led by Boglarka’s performance and outstanding 6-0 defence, Hungary returned stronger in the second half. By the 39th minute, Boglarka had made nine saves and the hosts had claimed the upper hand at 20:19 – and there was no looking back from there. While Hungary could afford to change their line-up thanks to their deep squad, Romania began to tire.
At first the distance grew slowly, but a series of fast breaks from the hosts soon saw Romania fall behind. By the time the last 10 minutes began, Hungary had a comfortable advantage, 25:21. After captain Rita Lakatos took Hungary to 30:24, and Boglarka saved the penalty, the victory was secured.
Quarter-final: Russia vs Netherlands 28:26 (14:14)
Russia’s defence has been some of the best at Hungary 2018, and the Netherlands initially struggled against it, losing the ball often in positional play but managing to keep in touch mainly courtesy of their fast-break game. Early on it looked as though Russia might have an easy task on their hands, as they raced ahead to a 4:0 lead before the Netherlands answered.
The Netherlands slowly came into the game and drew level at 6:6 in the 17th minute, at which point it seemed the game really began. Russia’s attack also had trouble against the Netherlands’ defence, and every goal in the match was hard to come by. From 6-0 in the opening half, the Netherlands joined Russia in playing 5-1 defence in the second period, and they were very successful at disrupting their opponents’ game.
Still, Russia managed to create an edge, helped by a good game from goalkeeper Serafima Tikhanova, who came into goal to replace Polina Kaplina for the second 30 minutes. The score stood level at 20:20 in the 45th minute, and it was just past the 47th minute that Russia created their first two-goal advantage since the opening quarter. From that point, the squad that won the 2016 Youth World Championship held a one to two-goal lead – and as Elena Mikhaylichenko scored to put the difference at two inside the final minute and Tikhanova saved the Netherlands’ last shot on goal, the match was decided.
Quarter-final: Norway vs France 27:26 (24:24)(11:13)
It was the only quarter-final match-up that took extra time to separate the teams, with Norway the team to take the place in the penultimate match thanks to a goal scored by Ragnhild Dahl with seconds on the clock. Norway started slower and were left chasing France through much of the game but received the biggest reward possible for their persistence.
Given their low shooting accuracy and the comparatively low save percentage of their goalkeeper, it was remarkable that Norway were only two behind at the end of the first 30 minutes. The Scandinavian team scored 46% of their shots in the opening half, while France recorded 62%. As usual, France’s defence was key, with goalkeeper Camille Depuiset saving at 39% behind the tough 6-0 in the first period.
When the match resumed, France were not only dominant in the statistics, as they quickly created a 17:12 advantage that prompted Norway coaches Vigdis Holmeset and Geir Oustorp to call a time-out after five minutes of play – and it eventually worked wonders. France maintained a steady lead, but Norway fought to close the gap, finally coming within one in the 53rd minute (20:21) and leaving fans in the arena on the edge of their seats as they equalised in the 60th thanks to a great goal in a tricky situation from line player Ane Hovland.
The match was therefore sent into extra time, with the first period of five minutes ending 26:26. Norway keeper Sofie Ege Gronlund made a crucial penalty save in the eighth minute of extra time, and her counterpart Roxanne Frank also made it impossible for the Scandinavian team to find the goal. In fact, there were no goals in the second period of five minutes until Dahl scored the winning shot.
Quarter-final: Korea vs Denmark 24:16 (11:7)
Korea marched straight over 2016 IHF Women’s Youth World Championship runners-up Denmark – and title holders of this competition – into the semi-finals of Hungary 2018 with a devastating defeat of the Europeans, restricting them to just seven first-half goals – including three in the first 15 minutes – and then just five strikes in 23 second half minutes.
In fact, from nine metres Denmark could only manage six goals from 19 attempts, a key part of any Danish side.
The Danes had no way past an organised, fluid and determined Korean defence, whose goalkeeper Joeun Park contributed at each end – both saving shots (46% in total) and scoring, when Denmark played 7 vs 6 in attack.
Danish Coach Heine Mogensen already knew he had problems in those first 15 minutes, taking a time-out with his side 5:3 down. Korea then proceeded to miss a couple of full-court shots as the Danes put the extra attacker in, but it did not make a difference as they fell behind by four at the break (11:7).
Korea proceeded to increase their lead as soon as the second half started and Mogensen took less than four minutes to make some re-adjustments with his side seven down (14:7), but by the time Joeun Park sunk home her full-court strike, Korea were nine goals ahead, extended to 10 (22:12) with 10 minutes left.