Two semi-final berths to be awarded on the last day of the group phase
26 Apr. 2023
With Bulgaria and Cuba each sealing their berths for the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship semi-finals, two more spots in the final weekend of the competition are available on the last day of the group phase.
In Group A, both Malta and India have chances to qualify when they face each other in the first match of the day in Varna, while Cyprus and Australia meet with a place in the semi-finals on the line in the second match.
- 12:15 EEST Malta vs India
After securing an important 26:23 win against Andorra, India are in a prime position to secure a place in the semi-finals before the game against Malta, which lost against Andorra (27:29).
The Asian side can lose by as many as two goals in this match, and they will be qualified, but they will be favoured against Malta, which showed grit but had little success against Andorra, conceding crucial goals at important moments.
Now, Malta need to win by at least three goals to progress. But they will face one of the sides that had some excellent individual performances, as right wing Ankit became only the fourth player to score in double digits in the first round of the group phase. In contrast, goalkeeper Kumar Atul had a 17-save outing, the second-highest number of saves in the first round.
If India qualify and progress to the semi-finals, it will be the first time an Asian side has finished in the top 4 at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship, but Malta have the edge of a day’s rest ahead of India.
- 14:30 EEST Cyprus vs Australia
Australia have already improved their best-ever finish at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship after finishing 12th at Kosovo 2015 with a 25:22 win over the Republic of Moldova on Wednesday. But the game against Cyprus will be different, as their opponents also took a 35:31 over the Republic of Moldova. Therefore, this is the final for first place and a semi-final berth.
While Cyprus might be favoured thanks to their superior experience, they also miss two key players after both came off injured in the match against the Republic of Moldova. Captain Demetris Nikiforou and left back Loucas Paraskeva will not play in the tournament, leaving a huge hole in the European side.
Paraskeva and Nikiforou combined for nine goals in their team’s win against the Republic of Moldova, but Australia will hope to strike and become the first team from Oceania to finish in the top 4 at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship. Still, they need a win, as they won only by three goals, having an inferior goal difference than Cyprus.
Australia’s goalkeeper, Bjørn Svineng McCourt, has been the top goalkeeper in the first round, with an excellent performance and 20 saves for a 48.7% saving efficiency that enabled his team to win against the Republic of Moldova and coach Taip Ramadani will hope for more of the same in a tougher game against Cyprus.
- 16:45 EEST Great Britain vs Guatemala
Sealing two wins in their first two matches in Group C, Cuba have already sealed their tickets to the semi-finals, qualifying for the second time in two editions they took part in the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.
This means that Great Britain and Guatemala will only meet for the second place in the group, with the European side clinching that place either via a draw or a win, having two out of three chances to earn a place in the 5-8 Placement Matches.
Great Britain stayed close against Cuba and even went ahead at the break but faltered in the second half. Yet, they still have more experience than their opponents Guatemala, who are making their debut at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.
In the first game, Guatemala not only lost (17:27) against Cuba but also scored the third-lowest number of goals in a single first half of the competition, five, and possibly lost their top scorer, Edwin Josue Martinez, due to an injury.
- 19:00 Azerbaijan vs Nigeria
As Bulgaria sealed their semi-final berth with wins against Azerbaijan (30:19) and Nigeria (23:19), the two sides will now face off in the last match of the day, aiming to finish in second place and earn a berth for the 5-8 Placement Matches.
Both teams are the ones which scored the lowest amount of goals in the first round of the group phase and will need plenty of improvement, with Nigeria coming in after a tense match against Bulgaria in which they hoped to clinch at least a point until the dying minutes.
As expected, right back Faruk Yusuf is Nigeria’s top hope in this competition, and he delivered a good game with six goals. Still, the African side must find meaningful contributions from other players, too, if they are to better the seventh place sealed at Georgia 2019.
But with only 12 players on the roster, Nigeria could be vulnerable and tired against a rested Azerbaijan side in the game that will close the group phase at the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship.