Great Britain recover from slow start to snatch win against Nigeria

29 Apr. 2023

Great Britain recover from slow start to snatch win against Nigeria

Great Britain secured their second win in three matches at the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, 30:20, against Nigeria, setting up a game against Australia in the Placement Match 5/6 on Sunday.

Placement Matches 5-8

  • Great Britain vs Nigeria 30:20 (14:11)

It was definitely not the start of the game that Great Britain envisioned, as they went down early 5:1, due to plenty of mistakes in their attack which Nigeria duly punished. Yet the plan was to isolate Nigeria’s best player, Faruk Yusuf, who started on a right wing position, enabling pairing him to right back Obinna Ani, the Player of the Match against Azerbaijan two days ago.

It looked like a match made in heaven for Nigeria, but Great Britain kept patient and waited for everything to fall in the right place. The tactic worked out wonders, as the turnovers disappeared and the attack started to get more traction. Slowly but surely, the European side had their own 4:0 run to tie the game.

It went from bad to worse for Nigeria, as Yusuf had little chance to shine, while Britain’s goalkeeper Craig McClelland started to make crucial saves, including six one-on-one saves, which tipped the scales for the European side.

While McClelland finished the first half with 10 saves and a 50% saving efficiency, right wing Francisco Pereira shined and had a flawless first half, scoring six of Britain’s 14 goals in the first 30 minutes.

Therefore, it was no surprise that the European side took a strong lead at the break (14:11), boasting an excellent game, maybe their most consistent so far at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, making them favourites to set up a clash against Australia in the Placement Match 5/6 on Sunday.

There was more of the same in the second half, as Great Britain weathered a very good start from Nigeria, once again using their defence to provide fast breaks, converted by wings Craig Yule and Francisco Pereira.

An 8:4 run to start the second half saw the gap balloon for Great Britain, 22:15, with 17 minutes to go, as that was the point of no return for Nigeria, which failed to produce consistency in attack, with too many missed shots and a lack of speed to derail Britain’s defence, with McClelland, the Player of the Match, truly starring with 18 saves and a 50% saving efficiency.

Pereira was truly unstoppable at times, especially on fast breaks, finishing the game with an 11-goal performance and improving his overall tally at Bulgaria 2023 to 23 goals, the second-largest, only behind Andorra’s Unai Ruiz, who has 26 goals.

With their second win in a row at Bulgaria 2023, 30:20, Great Britain did enough to secure a spot in the Placement Match 5/6, where they face Australia in what could prove to be an exciting battle between two well-balanced sides.

Nigeria head to the Placement Match 7/8, where they meet Andorra, being favoured against the European side due to their superior experience and physical qualities.

Player of the Match: Craig McClelland (Great Britain)