Bulgaria seal back-to-back bronze medals at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship

30 Apr. 2023

 Bulgaria seal back-to-back bronze medals at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship

Riding a flawless start, which saw them display a 10-goal lead after only 12 minutes, Bulgaria enjoyed their best game at the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, taking a 47:18 win against India in the bronze-medal game.

This is the second consecutive bronze medal sealed by Bulgaria in the competition after the one at Georgia 2019, as the European side secured wins in both bronze medal games played so far.

Bronze-medal match

  • India vs Bulgaria 18:47 (7:25)

Whatever could possibly go wrong for a handball team went wrong for India in the first half of the bronze-medal game at Bulgaria 2023, with the home team poised to avenge their painful semi-finals loss against Cuba.

Backed by 1000 fans, Bulgaria jumped to the occasion and truly delivered an impressive attacking performance, scoring one goal per minute at a blistering pace for the first 21 minutes, taking advantage of India’s mistakes.

Indeed, India looked totally gassed, after running and gunning for 60 minutes in Saturday’s semi-final against Cyprus, where they lost 37:42, bringing nothing to the table but turnover and missed shots in the first half against the hosts.

By the 11th minute, India had only four shots, turned the ball over nine times and were down 10 goals (2:12). Not even a timeout managed to weather the storm, as the scenario was the same, with the gap ballooning to 17 goals (21:4) as Bulgaria continued to push up the tempo.

In total, the hosts scored nine goals via fast breaks in the first half, with the all-time top scorer of the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, right wing Svetlin Dimitrov, leading the way with six goals, as India turned the ball over a staggering 21 times.

There was absolutely no way that Bulgaria would have conceded this game, as India’s players were absolutely devastated after the first half, the most lopsided in the whole tournament, which produced a 18-goal gap (25:7).

It was a matter of the gap in the second half, as the top goal scorer of the first two editions of the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, Bulgaria captain Svetlin Dimitrov, aimed to score as many here to give himself a chance to battle for the title once again. 

Dimitrov was too far behind, though, and his 11-goal tally only helped him jump to the second place in the standings with 29 goals, yet he might fall even further after the big final between Cuba and Cyprus.

As the gap grew even bigger and bigger, Bulgaria resorted to enjoy themselves, finishing the game off with in-flight goals and delivering a great show for their fans in the stands, celebrating the 47:18 win together.

It was neither Bulgaria’s biggest win, nor the game in which they scored the highest number of goals, tying that latter record, set at Georgia 2019 when Nikolay Genov scored with one second left.

India, the first Asian team to seal a semi-finals berth at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, lost their last two games, but they proved plenty of potential to grow, and finished on the fourth place, an amazing achievement for a side with so little experience as them.

On the other hand, Bulgaria confirmed their credentials for this edition of the competition and gave a reason to celebrate for their fans, with a huge win to end Bulgaria 2023 on a high. Their second bronze medal in a row is a testament of the hard work put in and underlines the margin for growing even further over the next years.

Player of the Match: Svetlin Dimitrov (Bulgaria)