Cuba and Cyprus meet in dazzling Bulgaria 2023 final

29 Apr. 2023

Cuba and Cyprus meet in dazzling Bulgaria 2023 final

Six games will decide the final standings at the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, with all eyes being on the big final, which creates a huge opportunity for Cuba to write history when they face Cyprus in the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna.


  • 20:30 EEST Cyprus vs Cuba

Only Cuba have sealed a medal in the past at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, being the runners-up in the previous edition at Georgia 2019, while Cyprus have ensured their first-ever medal in the competition after conceding the bronze medal game against Kosovo at Bulgaria 2017.

But qualifying for the final at Bulgaria 2023, with a three-game winning streak, is Cyprus’ greatest achievement so far in the competition, as they delivered some excellent moments throughout the last week, scoring the highest number of goals in the competition (103) on their way to the final. 

Cuba are set to be the biggest test for the European side so far at Bulgaria 2023, as two of the top three scorers in the competition face off. Cyprus’ centre back Alexandros Charalambous is the leader with 29 goals scored in three matches, while Cuba’s left wing Hanser Rodriguez Rodriguez has 23 goals, being the top scorer in each of his team’s games so far.

If Cyprus win, they will become the fourth European side to win the trophy in four editions. At the same time, Cuba can write history, provided they win their fourth match in a row, as the first non-European side to secure the title at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.

So far, both teams have an outstanding record in the competition, as Cyprus won seven of their nine games, while Cuba secured nine wins out of ten matches, for an excellent 90% record.

Bronze-medal match

  • 18:15 EEST India vs Bulgaria

The hosts aim for back-to-back bronze medals at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, trying to save their tournament after the painful loss against Cuba in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Bulgaria failed to bring the goods, especially in defence. Still, they will try to produce a good game against India, who have the second-largest number of goals scored in the competition (96) and the highest number conceded (96).

Bulgaria’s captain, Svetlin Dimitrov, has now passed the 200-goal mark in the competition but will look to lead his team again to a medal. At the same time, India can become the first Asian side to clinch a medal and only the second non-European one in the history of the competition.

India’s main weapon is their amazing pace, with Bulgaria having already learnt how devastating such a good pace might be when they lost on Saturday against Cuba, dropping their intensity in the second half. Whether Bulgaria can contain that pace or not might be decisive for their fate in the next-to-last game in the competition.

Placement Match 5/6

  • 16:00 EEST Australia vs Great Britain

The two teams which have conceded the lowest number of goals at Bulgaria 2023 so far – Australia (63) and Great Britain (66) – face off with the fifth place on the line in what has been a good campaign for both so far at the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.

Both Australia and Great Britain have won two games and lost another, finishing on the second place in the group phase, while also delivering excellent performances on Saturday, winning 32:19 against Andorra and 30:20 against Nigeria, respectively.

It will also be a battle between the top two goalkeepers of the competition, with Australia’s Bjoern Svineng McCourt (39 saves, 44.8% saving efficiency) and Britain’s Craig McClelland (36 saves, 42.8% saving efficiency) trying to keep the attacks under the lid.

Great Britain have already secured their second-best finishing position so far at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship after finishing fourth at Georgia 2019, while Australia are sure of their best-ever finish in the competition.

Placement Match 7/8

  • 13:45 EEST Andorra vs Nigeria

Andorra have already sealed their best-ever finish at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, but will try to end up on the seventh place in the game against Nigeria.

Both sides have lost two games and won a single one so far at Bulgaria 2023, with Andorra’s lack of depth being their largest flaw, as they lacked clarity and strength in Saturday’s 19:32 loss against Australia.

Two of the top four scorers at Bulgaria 2023 will face off in this game; as leader of the standings, Andorra’s centre back Unai Ruiz (26 goals) will try to stop the challenge from right back Faruk Yusuf, who has scored 22 goals and is on the fourth place in the standings.

Placement Match 9/10

  • 11:30 EEST Republic of Moldova vs Guatemala

Guatemala wrote history on Saturday, taking their first-ever win at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship (28:20) against Azerbaijan to set up a clash against the Republic of Moldova for the Placement Match 9/10, in a battle between two sides with different styles.

The European side disappointed in the group phase but bounced back with a strong win over Malta, relying heavily on their backs, Vasili Vasilatii and Vlad Martalog, who are both in the top 10 scorers of the tournament with 19 goals scored each.

Guatemala, on the other hand, have the lowest number of saves made by their two goalkeepers (23) and the lowest saving efficiency (23.4%), which needs to be improved, as the European side will look to shoot once again from the back line.

Moldova are also trying to avoid their worst-ever finish in the competition, which will be sealed if they lose against Guatemala after they had previously ended on the ninth place at Bulgaria 2017.

Placement Match 11/12

  • 09:15 EEST Malta vs Azerbaijan

The two sides, which have lost both matches so far, will face each other in a bid to avoid finishing last at Bulgaria 2023, rekindling a rivalry that saw them going head-to-head three times in the last four years.

Azerbaijan won all three games, including a 37:22 win at the 2019 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, in the Placement Matches 9-12, and a 34:25 win in the EHF EURO 2026 Qualification Phase 1 only three months ago in January.

Yet at Bulgaria 2023, Malta have been better than their opponents in every category – scoring 23 goals more and conceding eight goals less than Azerbaijan, with the former team scoring the lowest number of goals (56) and conceding the second largest (93) in the three games played so far.