Iceland break 30-year wait to seal bronze medal at Germany/Greece 2023
02 Jul. 2023
The “Icelandic clap” could be heard at the end of the bronze medal game at the 2023 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship, after Iceland delivered a flawless second half to secure a 27:23 win over Serbia in the next-to-last game at Germany/Greece 2023.
Iceland broke a 30-year wait for a medal in the competition, with their last place on the podium coming at Egypt 1993.
- Serbia vs Iceland 23:27 (13:13)
Iceland had a chance to fight for their first medal at the IHF Men’s Junior World Championship since 1993 when they sealed the bronze in Egypt. But facing them was a hungry Serbia side, the bronze medal winners at the M20 EHF EURO 2022 last summer, which was eager to seal back-to-back places on the podium at major international events.
And for much of the first half, Serbia was the team dictating the rhythm, much thanks to the excellent Luka Krivokapić, the goalkeeper with the highest number of saves and the best saving efficiency at Germany/Greece 2023, who delivered a masterpiece of a performance in the first 11 minutes, stopping seven shots for a magnificent 77.7% saving efficiency.
Yet it was not plain sailing for Serbia, as the other goalkeeper, Iceland’s Brynjar Vignir Sigurjónsson, had some plans of his own, stopping 10 shots for a 50% saving efficiency in the first half in a true battle of the shot stoppers for the bronze medal.
However, Serbia were still in control of the game, leading by three goals with four minutes left (13:10), with their excellent pair of backs, Boško Stanisavljević and Miloš Kos, combining for nine goals. But the first half was not over yet and the first signs of resilience from Iceland were displayed.
A 3:0 run for Iceland helped tie the game (13:13) and it was game on once again for the plucky Nordic side, whose defence started to get better and better. Iceland cancelled a two-goal Serbia lead once again at the start of the second half, with another 3:0 unanswered run spurred by Benedikt Gunnar Óskarsson.
And when left back Thorsteinn Leó Gunnarsson started to get in his groove, Iceland became unstoppable, creating their first two-goal lead of the game (21:19) with 14 minutes left in the match, as Serbia found themselves backed into a corner, their attack failing to produce the goods needed to claim back the lead.
Eventually, it boiled down once again to a battle between the goalkeepers, with the fabulous Krivokapić (14 saves for 34% saving efficiency) and Sigurjónsson (14 saves for 38%) trying to lift their teams to a bronze medal. This battle was clinched at the end by Iceland’s shot stopper, who got some excellent help from his defence.
While Serbia’s backs were constantly hampered by Iceland’s fantastic defence, Gunnarsson, the hummel Player of the Match, who scored eight goals, proved to be unstoppable, getting back to his excellent form displayed in the quarter-finals after he went missing in the semi-final against Hungary.
Kos did score six goals to improve his overall tally in the competition to 50 goals, but it did not help Serbia secure the bronze medal, as Iceland kept their cool and forced Serbia to commit to difficult shots, which did not hit the target, which stopped a comeback in its tracks.
In the end, Iceland celebrated their second-ever medal at the IHF Men’s Junior World Championship, thanks to a 27:23 win, which proved once again that the start does not matter in handball. It is always about the strong finish for Iceland, which brought a thoroughly deserved bronze medal.
Iceland break a 30-year wait for a medal in the world handball flagship competition, with a generation which will definitely have more to say in the future, confirming their penchant for creating players with huge potential.
On the other hand, Serbia’s championship ended in disappointment, but several players look to be on the up, whose names will surely be known in senior handball over the next years.
hummel Player of the Match: Thorsteinn Leó Gunnarsson (Iceland)