The Korean women’s handball team has won three straight Asian qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. A win in the final qualifier against Japan on Wednesday will secure a spot in the main stage of next year’s Games in Paris.
Henrik Signel (47-Sweden) and his team defeated Kazakhstan 45-24 in the third match of the qualifier at the Maeda Housing East Sports Center in Hiroshima, Japan, on Wednesday. It was the team’s third win in as many games after two previous victories over India (53-14) and China (33-20). South Korea maintained its absolute dominance in the all-time series with a 24-2 record.
South Korea fell behind 0-2 in the first half after conceding two goals in a row. Kazakh goalkeeper Zanat Aitenova (34) kept making saves.
However, pivot Kang Eun-hye (27-SK) opened the scoring with Korea’s first goal, before Shin Eun-joo (30-Incheon City Hall) equalized. The “Big Three” of Kang Eun-hye, Kang Eun-seo (24-Samcheok City Hall), and Kang Kyung-min (27-Gwangju City Corporation) then scored back-to-back goals to give Korea a 5-2 lead.
After the Kazakhs scored two more points to make it 5-4, Signell brought in national team standout Ryu Eun-hee (33, Gyorgyi, Hungary) with 11 minutes left in the first half. It was Ryu’s first appearance of the tournament. Ryu immediately scored her first goal of the tournament when she converted a 7-meter throw from Kim Bo-eun (26-Samcheok City Hall).
Korea scored four straight goals from 9-6 to extend the lead to 13-6. The teams then exchanged six goals apiece to end the first half at 19-12.
At the start of the second half, the Koreans regrouped and rattled the net six times. Half of the six points came from Song Hye-soo (24, Gwangju City Corporation), but there was an unfortunate incident four minutes into the second half when captain Lee Im-kyung (32, Busan Facilities Corporation) collided hard with her opponent Mariya Sitnikova (25) and had to be substituted after receiving icing on her neck. Sitnikova was later sent off.
The Koreans put up a solid defense until Kazakhstan’s first goal came eight minutes into the second half.
South Korea rained down goals in the second half as they physically overwhelmed the Kazakhs, who slowed down in the second half. With a 31-19 advantage in shots, South Korea scored 14 goals while conceding just five.
Song Hye-soo was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the game with six points, while Ryu Eun-hee added eight points, including four 7-meter throws. Kang Eun-hye (6 goals), Kang Kyung-min (4 goals), and Song Ji-young (4 goals) also contributed. Song Hye-soo said, “I didn’t expect to win MVP, but my sisters helped me and I got a lot of chances because I was playing as a team. I think I was lucky to get it,” she said, humbly adding, “We’ve done a lot of preparation for the (remaining) games against Japan, and if we continue to play the way we’ve been playing, I think we can get a good result.”
Park Sae-young (29, Samcheok City Hall), who was in goal from the first to the seventh minute of the second half, held up well with a high save percentage (39.1%), while Jung Jin-hee (24, Seoul City Hall) was also not far behind with a 23.1% save percentage.
South Korea is now well on its way to qualifying for its 11th consecutive Olympic Games.
Only the top-ranked team in this pooled qualifier will advance directly to next year’s Olympic Games in Paris. The second-place finisher will have to fight for another spot in an intercontinental playoff.
South Korea hasn’t missed an Olympic Games since the 1984 Los Angeles Games, with the exception of the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games, where they qualified directly through the Asian Qualifiers. South Korea punched its ticket in 2004 with a second-place finish at the Asian Qualifiers and a third-place finish at the subsequent World Championships, and again in 2008 with a second-place finish at the Asian Qualifiers but a second-place finish at the International Handball Federation (IHF) Olympic Qualifiers.
Korea will face Japan in the final match of the qualification. Japan also went 3-0 in qualifying, defeating India (54-17), Kazakhstan (50-28), and China (35-18). South Korea is currently second in goal differential, three goals behind Japan.
“The game against Japan will be a completely different game from what we’ve played so far,” said Signell, “It’s going to be a matchup between two top teams, and I think it’s going to be decided in the finer details because they know each other so well.”
The match between Korea and Japan, with Olympic qualification on the line, will take place at 3 p.m. on March 23. 안전카지노사이트