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Coaches / Analysis / Details

Playing seven against six – A tactical option only for certain match situations

By Dietrich Späte, IHF CCM Chairman

Overall analysis of all attacking actions in empty-goal situations in the 96 matches of the 2019 Men’s World Championship in GER/DEN

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a simplified form of substituting the goalkeeper for an additional attacking field player was introduced. This had been possible before, but only very few teams had made use of this option.

At Rio 2016, handball ranked second (behind football) in terms of spectators for the first time in history. Both the spectators and members of other sports federations assessed this improved tactical option very positively, as it created some new, sometimes spectacular situations and moments of suspense in the matches.

However, at the following IHF World Championships between 2017 and 2018, only a few teams made use of the tactical option of playing seven against six. In the semi-final at the 2017 Men’s Junior World Championship in Algeria, Denmark played seven against six throughout the entire match and eventually managed to defeat France. But this first successful “seven-against-six match” at an IHF event remained the exception. In the final against Spain, Denmark ironically lost the World Championship title due to a mistake while playing seven against six in attack.

In the past two years, there have been intensive discussions about the pros and cons of this technically improved playing rule. Often, however, there was no proper basis for the frequency and success of the various tactical possibilities in the course of the game to substitute the goalkeeper for an additional field player.

In close cooperation with the IHF partner Swiss Timing (www.swisstiming.com) all 96 matches of the 2019 Men’s World Championship in Denmark and Germany were analysed and evaluated in detail. In addition to the analysis of the different player substitutions during the game (goalkeeper – field player, field player – field player, goalkeeper – goalkeeper), the frequency, timing and success of the various empty-goal situations were analysed:

  • Attacking actions while playing seven against six
  • Attacking actions while playing six against six (after substituting the goalkeeper for a field player due to a two-minute suspension)
  • Other attacking actions after substituting the goalkeeper for a field player (for example, in situations in which both teams play with only five field players due to two-minute suspensions; after substituting the goalkeeper, this results in playing six against five when in possession of the ball)

Click on Show Items below to check out our summary overview of the frequency and effectiveness of these different empty-goal situations.