Recent triumphs energise Portugal
Portugal goes to the IKF World Korfball Championship 2019 buoyed up by two recent significant achievements. Last October, in Friesland, they overcame Belgium to win bronze by the narrowest margin at the IKF European Korfball Championship; then in July this year they climbed right to the top of the podium, winning the IKF Beach Korfball World Cup (Europe) 2019.
Rui Malcata is assistant coach for Portugal. He says the recent success provides the team with a good springboard towards their main goal in South Africa, which is qualification for the World Games 2021, Birmingham, USA.
“Defeating Belgium last year and winning the bronze medal was a special day. It fulfilled a dream we have held for many years. Going into that match, we wanted to leave a good image of Portugal, to show ourselves as a pressing team in defence, and patient in the attack, facing our opponent eye to eye, without fear.
“Throughout the IKF EKC, we thought we might have a chance to win against Belgium. On the day of the match we knew it was going to be difficult, though not impossible,” he says.
Portugal hung close behind The Diamonds throughout the first half, then managed to secure then hold a slender lead through most of the second, eventually grinding down their historically superior opponent by clinging to a one goal lead for the last 1.21 minutes. It was an emotional finale for the team and obviously a tough experience for Belgium to finish a major tournament without a medal.
To follow that up a few months later with a gold medal on the sand in France has made the last few months a high point in the history of Portuguese korfball, says Rui.
“Representing our country with honour and pride, and becoming World Champion by defeating The Netherlands was something sensational. Although they are completely separate competitions, what we achieved at the EKC and then on the beach showed that Portugal belongs among the best in korfball. Ahead of the IKF WKC the bar is high. Our whole team is focused on the mission, with commitment, unity and humility.
“Of course, we realise that each competition is different and we will have to perform to the highest level we possibly can. However, we certainly aspire to continue to remain among the best through to the end of this IKF WKC,” he says.
Every member of the Portuguese squad lives in Lisbon. All started playing korfball while at school, following which they moved to play at clubs in and around the city, reaching the highest level competing in Portugal’s national championship.
In Durban Portugal has been drawn in the same pool as IKF EKC silver medalist Germany. Their meeting, on the final day of pool play, promises to be one of the most closely observed games of the tournament’s first three days.
Rui, however, says the team is taking one step at a time.
“We only think game by game, so for now our concern is South Africa: our debut, on the first day of the tournament.”
With the host team fired up, and scheduled directly after the tournament opening ceremony, that focus certainly makes good sense for Purtugal, who Rui says are held together by their commitment to each other.
“For us, the value of our team is the team itself. No player is above the other players. Everything we have achieved so far is through hard work and personal dedication. We stand for fair play, self-belief and pressure,” he says.
Judging by the pressure they were able to put on The Diamonds to hold their lead and claim that historic bronze medal, it is a philosophy that has worked well.
#TeamPOR IKF WKC 2019
1: Celise Ribeiro
2: Ana Curva
3: Ana Cordeiro
4: Luise Costa Ruivo
5: Isabel Almeida
7: Catarina Correia
9: Jean Ayres
10: Tiago Luz
11: Hugo Fernandes
13: Bruno Amaral
15: Pedro Correia
16: Júlio Ruivo
Coach: Isabel Teixeira
Assistant Coach: Rui Malcata