World Korfball Championships 2019 Preview
In a few days the World Korfball Championships 2019 will kick off in Durban, South Africa. As Korfball World Foundation chooses to focus its funds currently on support of Ukraine, we miss being at the event physically. We will follow this big event from a distance and will give our views on the squads and the results. We start with this preview, looking at each pool individually.
The International Korfball Federation chooses for the first time to have twenty countries at the World Korfball Championships. This complicates the always debatable match schedule, but we ignore that for now. The main point in this preview is that there are five pools of four, where the first three of each pool will continue to the next phase with the possibility to become world champion. They will be joined by the best number four of the five pools. The bottom four will play each other to determine places 17 to 20.
This pool consists of Catalunya, Czechia, The Netherlands and New Zealand. The obvious number one here is The Netherlands. The potential big battle will be between the Czechs and the Catalans. Their last encounter is at the 2018 European Korfball Championships to determine fifth place and is won 20-17 by Czech Republic. We will know soon enough who is the better one now, as this vital clash Czech Republic - Catalunya is planned for 1 August 2019. We slightly favour Czech Republic also because they have our Korfball Hero Renata Havlová.
New Zealand is the newcomer at the world stage. With two players of Dutch origin and a coach with high level Dutch playing experience, it will be interesting to see how they hold up against these European veteran countries. We expect some spectacular haka's as well.
This pool consists of Australia, Ireland, Poland and Taiwan. The Taiwanese set their sights on claiming the title, and during the pool phase we expect no huge resistance in becoming first. The clash we see here is again for places two and three between Australia and Poland.
Poland carries the scar from the 2018 European Championships, where they lose a crucial game against Hungary. Coach Koopmans has been working hard with this squad to prevent a similar event during these World Championships. The squad also includes Tamara Siemieniuk, who gets a year of Dutch korfball experience at LDODK together with Klaudia Majchrzak.
Regular followers of Australia will need to get some detox as this is the first event in long history without Jessica May on the roster as a player. Also Korfball Heroes Ashlee Othen is missing in the national squad. During the 2017 World Games these two women were important for the Australian squad. Also our cult favourite Adam Robertson is missing from the squad. This makes it harder for us to predict the level of Australia compared to Poland. Their last encounter is at the 2017 World Games where Australia has a 20-18 win over the then host country Poland. With these changes, we tend to favour Poland over Australia. Also here this crucial game is planned already on 1 August, so the pool order seems to be decided quickly.
Ireland gets their appearance thanks to the withdrawel of both Dominican Republic and Zimbabwe. It is one more chance for Shay Conroy to show his shooting strength at the highest international level. For the pool phase we expect no suprise from this squad and fourth place.
This pool consists of Belgium, England, Hong Kong and Slovakia. Here we could potentially have a close fight for first place, as Belgium is in transition and may not have recovered from their 2018 European Championship fiasco. On the other hand England seems unable to send their theoretically strongest group to South Africa and focus appears to be on that rather than on their upcoming performance. We predict Belgium first and England second. Our player to follow here is Belgian Korfball Hero Brent Struyf.
Hong Kong is slightly progressing at the international level. As this is one of the countries where money seems to be less of an issue, they can send the squad they want. Where height tends to be a drawback for Hong Kong korfball, the squad starts to have taller players, giving them more counterweight to European opponents. We will see how that works out against Slovakia, who is in the same position as Ireland. They are able to go after two withdrawals and have worked out the money to claim an open spot. Slovakia is on the way back up after a near extinction and we will see how that works out against Hong Kong. We put our money on Hong Kong to claim third place, but it may be a close game. Hong Kong - Slovakia is scheduled for 3 August 2019.
This pool consists of China, Hungary, Macau and Suriname. The IKF ranking puts China at 4 and Surinam at 21, but we call these numbers inaccurate in showing the difference in level. Although China has many korfball players compared to other korfball countries, their top level is still rather limited. Also their ranking is linked to the many trips of the Dutch team to Asia where they play each other regularly as well as China sending squads to every international event for every age group like the U19 and U17. Surinam on the other hand only exists as a korfball country for two years and only has an adult squad at the moment. This adult squad consists of players living and playing korfball in The Netherlands and most of them at a high level. Therefore our odds are on that Surinam can take first place in this pool, unless they think becoming second is better for the later match schedule. Surinam intends to take a medal here and they can strike the first blow already in this pool against China. China - Surinam is scheduled for 2 August 2019. Of course we will also follow the play of our Korfball Hero Jaleesa Claver.
Hungary should have no problem becoming third in this group. And we mean this without disrespect to the level of this squad in regards to the first two places. The group has been together for several years now, is young and still grows. In their recent double encounter against Czech Republic they beat the Czechs once, showing the growth of their level. Would they have been in another pool, a second place might be an option. With Surinam in this pool as dark horse, a second place seems unlikely. They may surprise after the initial phase though.
Macau is present for the first time ever on any world championships of any sport, if we understand right. for us that says what we can expect from them during the first phase. They will experience korfball at the top level and hopefully it will inspire them to continue growing. In this pool they will be fourth for sure.
The last pool consists of Germany, Japan, Portugal and host South Africa. Here we can expect a tough game for first place between Germany and Portugal. Both squads perform at their peak at the 2018 European Korfball Championships. For Germany this means a spot in the final after beating Portugal. For the Portuguese it means claiming bronze in a thriller against Belgium after losing against Germany a day earlier. They square off against each other on 3 August and we think that the result depends on how badly the squads want to end first in this pool. Portugal shows to have tremendous passion in their squad, also the U21 squad and a drive to win. Germany tests themselves againt Surinam just before the World Championship, which means a good last test. We miss Lena Gerlich on the roster, who we feel to be a great talent for Germany. We root for spectacular Portugal over Germany.
South Africa is the sole representative of the home continent at this World Korfball Championship 2019. This fact alone disappoints us already. Our next worry will be if the host will break the trend of repeating history for themselves. Despite being on many World Championships, they never impress. Now they get lots of Dutch support to raise their level and we will have to see the result during this championship. We doubt we will see much of it during the pool phase with Germany and Portugal. We think the difference in level simply is too big. They should be able to win quite clearly against Japan and gain confidence from that victory. Japan is another newcomer at the global stage of korfball. We hope they will respresent their country with honour. The game South Africa - Japan is scheduled for 3 August 2019 and will give us more insight into the current level of both these countries.
Best Number Four
Determining the best number four is tricky business as it is not just determined by the level of the squads themselves, but also by their opponents, as it is about goal difference. Our prediction is that all numbers four end with zero points. As we claim that Hong Kong and Slovakia in pool C are closest for place three, potentially that number four may get one point from a golden goal defeat and become the best number four.
Based on their own level we would pick the best number four from Ireland, Slovakia and New Zealand in that order of likeliness. According to us, Japan and Macau have no chance in their pools. Looking at the pools, Ireland may be able to get decent results against Australia and Poland and be happy that Taiwan will not go for fourty plus goals against them. Slovakia or Hong Kong may benefit from a close game between them and a sub par England. On the other hand, Belgium will try to impress with many goals and will do so against the number four for sure. Also New Zealand has to deal with The Netherlands looking to score many goals as well as the Czechs and Catalans looking to boost their confidence and goal difference. Still we give the number four of pool C, Slovakia or Hong Kong, a slightly bigger probability to be the best number four than Ireland. New Zealand has to impress a lot defensively to get through.
After 3 August we will see how accurate this preview is and look onward to the next phase of the championship for the top sixteen countries. We also may take a stab at potential players for a World Korfball Squad 2019.