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Puerto Rico bowed out of Spain 2021 in superb fashion, sealing their second win in the competition and their third overall at the IHF Women’s World Championship with a gritty display against Kazakhstan, 30:27.

MAIN ROUND GROUP II Puerto Rico vs Kazakhstan 30:27 (13:11)

After their previous lopsided losses against the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Romania, it was difficult to tell who would emerge victorious in this encounter between Kazakhstan and Puerto Rico, their final game at the 25th IHF Women’s World Championship.

Kazakhstan had the advantage of tall backs and powerful shots, while Puerto Rico dazzled with speed and creativity in their previous win against an Asian side, Uzbekistan, 30:24.

At least for the first 30 minutes, it was Puerto Rico who had the upper hand, confusing Kazakhstan with their aggressive defence, which constantly morphed from the traditional 6-0 to a more aggressive 5-1 and even 3-3, as Lyazzat Ishanova’s side could not find the passes to create the opportunities they needed.

In spite of their good start, 2:0 after three minutes, Kazakhstan faltered, especially as they could not get the ball into their top scorer’s hands, Irina Alexandrova, who scored only three times in the first half, out of four shots.

But Puerto Rico were remarkable in attack, keeping the turnovers to a relatively low number, seven, and relying on experienced centre back Nathalys Ceballos to dictate the pace. And it really worked like a charm, with Ceballos scoring six goals and dishing three other assists to keep the North American and Caribbean champions in the lead.

Puerto Rico led by as many as four goals, 11:7, but only went into the break with a slender 13:11 lead, with the Asian side still hoping on turning the game around in the second half.

For a moment, it looked like Kazakhstan had what they needed to turn the game around, especially when Puerto Rico were not able to contain Alexandrova, who scored four times in the first eight minutes to help the Asian side turn the game on its head with a 6:3 run.

But it was a well-taken time-out by Puerto Rico’s coach Camilo Estevez, who really decided the outcome of the game. It instilled exactly the needed motivation for the North America and Caribbean champions and set the pace for what ensued.

Ceballos, who was named the hummel Player of the Match, looked like a player possessed at times, really helping her side turn the game around. Scoring 13 goals from 14 shots and helping her side with five more assists, Ceballos overlooked a 10:5 run to finish the game for Puerto Rico, whose defence posed questions that Kazakhstan could not answer.

Eventually, Puerto Rico sealed a 30:27 win, their third in history at the IHF Women’s World Championship, which helped them finish on fifth place in Group II of the main round.

hummel Player of the Match: Nathalys Ceballos, Puerto Rico

Photo: RFEBM / Á. Bermejo


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