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Date: 8/20/2017

One day after France and Spain both qualified for their second ever IHF Men’s Youth (U19) World Championship finals, the teams meet to battle for the trophy. Both enter the match with perfect records at Georgia 2017, including impressive victories in their respective semi-finals – where Spain beat Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists Croatia by two goals and France defeated Denmark by eight. 

Before Spain and France play the ultimate match, Croatia and Denmark will take the court to decide the bronze medal in what can be expected to be a high-voltage game considering both have put on an outstanding show at Georgia 2017. 

Both matches will be played in Olympic Palace A in Tbilisi, Georgia on August 20. 

Final: Spain vs France 18:00 local time

Just like the victorious Junior side that won the trophy in Algeria in July, the Spain Youth team have never claimed the title – will 2017 be the year of Spain, as 2015 was for France?

In 2015, France won all three Men’s World Championship titles: senior in Qatar in January, Junior in Brazil in July, and Youth in Russia in August. Spain may not have raised the trophy at France 2017 in January, but they pulled off a historic win at Algeria 2017 when the Under 21 team beat Denmark in the final for their first ever world title in that category. 

Spain have made the final once before, losing to Denmark in 2011. France have also played one final at the Youth World Championship, beating Slovenia to claim the gold medal at Russia 2015.  

Both teams have won every one of their games at Georgia 2017, though France have recorded larger score lines in their favour with the closest being six goals against Norway in the preliminary round. Spain have had some closer calls, such as a 29:28 victory against Serbia in the group phase. But those results have no bearing on the final, which begins with both sides on equal footing and will end with just one winner. 

The teams have well and truly earned their places in the final with deep squads – including two reliable goalkeeping options in each side – and outstanding defence the key factors in their campaigns. France coach Erik Quintin agrees the depth in his side was crucial to their success in the semi-final victory over Denmark: 

“We changed players and we can continue with a level of power. When all players can play maybe at the end of the championship the group is more fresh than our opponent, but we know Spain is a really good team, they play hard in defence, they enjoy playing, we love this team too. And I am happy to play against Spain in the final because it’s a team we like,” says Quintin, continuing with high praise for their rivals:

“They play with a lot of heart, a lot of passion. They play fast, they play slow, they play high, they are creative, they have a good player – [Ian] Tarrafeta. They are collective, the trainer is full of passion, I love the way they think handball – but I prefer to win!

“[It will be] an especially good game, because we explained to our players that we are working to make a show. We want them to be proud to make a good show.”

Bronze-medal match: Croatia vs Denmark 15:30 local time

Croatia and Denmark take the court for what is regarded as one of the most difficult matches at any tournament – the 3/4 play-off, where there is the motivation of a medal at stake, but also the need to recover from the disappointment of falling one short of the trophy game. 

For Croatia, the semi-final loss was perhaps somewhat more devastating considering they kept pace throughout despite struggling to find their own game against Spain’s exceptional defence. Their fate was sealed in the last two minutes when they still had a chance at victory but Adrian Torres saved the last attempts while his team added one goal at the other end to secure the final two-goal score line.

After scoring the opening goal, Denmark were behind for their entire game and it was clear as early as the 40th minute that they would need a miracle to come back into the game as they faced a significant difference at that point. The team were naturally disappointed, but losing when performing at maximum against an undeniably stronger opponent is different from being defeated when playing below what you are capable of – as was the case for Croatia. 

Both will be motivated to return stronger, and a thrilling 60 minutes to decide the bronze medal can be decided. Each team will rely on one stand-out attacker, with Denmark’s play led by Emil Laerke while Croatia’s MVP in many of their Georgia 2017 matches, Ivan Martinovic, will attempt to rise again and punish the Danish goal to help his side leave the court with a medal.