Excellent second half sees Cuba sail past Great Britain
25 Apr. 2023
The runners-up at the previous edition of the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, Cuba, threw off Bulgaria 2023 with a strong display and a crucial win against Great Britain (32:28), which enables them to dream about another return to the final, with a win against Guatemala on Wednesday being enough to progress to the semi-finals.
- Great Britain vs Cuba 28:32 (14:13)
Four years ago, at the previous edition of the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, Cuba and Great Britain faced each other in the group phase in a game which proved to be the final of that group as the European side conceded a 27:35 loss that sent them to the second place.
This time around, the game was going to be even more crucial, with the winner opening up a huge advantage to compete for the trophy, as only the group winners would progress to the semi-finals.
And for the British team, which were coming in good form in the tournament after progressing from the EHF EURO 2026 Qualification Phase 1, the start was excellent, taking a 4:1 lead, as goalkeeper Aaron Gillet saved a pair of shots and the attack was displaying good efficiency.
Yet the star of the team, Sebastien Edgar, the top goal scorer at Georgia 2019, started to turn the ball over more and more as the minutes passed, making six costly mistakes in the first 25 minutes and enabling Cuba to get back into the game.
With Hanser Michel Rodriguez Rodriguez proving his mettle as the most experienced Cuba player with five goals in the first half, Great Britain entered the break with a one-goal advantage (14:13), full of confidence in creating the conditions for taking a crucial win in the maths of the tournament.
But the start of the second half was their undoing. Riding on the wave created by the saves from captain Magnol Suarez Fis, Cuba started the second part of the game with a 4:0 run, turning the game on its head.
Another 5:2 run followed, as Cuba created a five-goal lead (21:16) for the first time in the game. The misses piled up for Great Britain, with nothing managing to keep them afloat on both sides of the ball, even when coach Ricardo Vasconcelos started tinkering with his defence.
Trying to stop the powerful Cuba backs, Team GB left the line player wide open, and Lidier Vergara Martínez did not forgive, putting goal after goal into the European side’s net.
A last-gasp attempt for a comeback by the European side, which came close enough, cutting the gap to only three goals with an ultra-aggressive seven-on-six tactic in attack, was eventually repelled as Rodriguez ended the game with seven goals, lifting Cuba to a 32:28 win, their sixth in seven games at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.
Cuba will seal the semi-finals berth provided they win on Wednesday against Guatemala in their second group phase match. At the same time, Great Britain have a day’s rest before facing Guatemala themselves on Thursday.
Player of the Match: Hanser Michel Rodriguez Rodriguez (Cuba)