24 teams will compete at the XX Women’s World Championship in Brazil from 2 to 18 December – and all of them for the beginning want to go to São Paulo, where all the matches will be held as of the quarter-finals. However many of them want to go one step further, namely to the London Olympic Games. If the coaches of the top nations are to be believed, there are as many favourites among the 24 participants as never before at a Women’s World Championship. Up to eleven candidates for the semi-finals were named, the WCh – the first Women’s World Championship on the Pan-American continent – will probably be as balanced as never before.
The preparations in the South American country have been in progress since Brazil was awarded the organization of the WCh at the IHF Council meeting in Herzogenaurach in 2008. The four playing venues – São Paulo, Barueri, São Bernardo and Santos – were quickly found, the matches are played in arenas with a capacity between 5,000 and 11,000 spectators.
Following the Pan-American Championships in São Bernardo do Campo and a long continental qualification, the preliminary round groups were drawn, just after WCh host Brazil had confidently defended its continental title. And already the preliminaries promise to be highly exciting:
Among others Olympic and European Champion Norway, the strong European teams from Germany and Montenegro, African Champion Angola as well as China will face in Group A in Santos. Title holder Russia (World Champion of 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009), the best Asian teams from Kazakhstan and Asian Olympic participant Korea, Spain, the Vice European Champion of 2008, and the 2012 ECh host Netherlands will meet among others in Group B in Barueri. The four best-ranked teams of these two groups will play the eight-finals, same as the competitors of Group C and D.
Group C (playing venue São Paulo) includes among others host Brazil, Vice World Champion and top favourite France as well as the third-ranked team of the ECh Romania, whereas Denmark, Sweden and Croatia will be the main candidates to become winner of Group D in São Bernardo do Campo.
Not only the composition of the preliminary round groups, but also the new playing mode will ensure an exciting tournament: The main round was abolished, and the five preliminary round matchdays will be followed by the knock-out phase and the eight-finals. The winning teams will then travel to São Paulo, where all matches as of the quarter-finals (as of 14th December) until the final on 18 December will take place in the Ginasio do Ibirapuera in front of 11,000 fans.
It is however not only about the WCh title in Brazil, but also about the tickets to the London Olympic Games: The new World Champion will directly qualify for the 2013 WCh in Serbia as well as for London. The best six teams, which have not yet secured their tickets to London through the continental qualifications, qualify for the Olympic Qualification Tournaments from 25 to 27 May 2012, where in total twelve teams will compete for the last six places of the Olympic women’s tournament. Currently only Great Britain (host), Norway (Europe), Korea (Asia) and Brazil (Pan-America) have qualified for the Olympics. And as there are as many favourites as never before, all will be at stake at the latest as of the eight-finals.
And this closeness of the top teams is a high target for worldwide media: Nearly 500 media representatives from more than 20 countries will be present in the four venues. And as UFA Sports, IHF TV rights partner, announced the World Championship will be broadcast to more than 120 countries.