Guatemala write history to earn first win at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship
29 Apr. 2023
Rookies Guatemala secured their first-ever win at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship with a sharp display against Azerbaijan, 28:20, as they have avoided finishing in last place in the competition in their maiden appearance.
Placement Matches 9-12
- Guatemala vs Azerbaijan 28:20 (14:11)
It was a story about hot and cold streaks for the two sides in the first half, with Guatemala delivering some of their best handball at the 2023 IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship in the first 30 minutes of the clash against Azerbaijan.
They entered the break with a 14:11 lead, having scored more goals in the first half of this game than in the previous two games combined, boasting a 4:1 run to start the game and a 6:1 run to turn the game on its head, as Erick Ruben Estrada Colocho, Edwin Josue Martinez and Jefferson Alejandro Cetino Cheguen combined for 10 goals in the first 30 minutes.
But it was also a run of 11 minutes and six seconds without a goal that really threw Guatemala’s game into jeopardy, enabling Azerbaijan to create their own 5:0 unanswered run, thanks to some excellent defence and great saves from goalkeeper Elshad Mammadyarov.
However, the turnover-prone Azerbaijan side continued to make easy mistakes, with 13 balls lost via mistakes, handing Guatemala the keys to the game. As Guatemala’s goalkeepers made only three saves between them, the plan for Azerbaijan for the second half was simple: protect the ball better and try to mount a comeback.
However, the gap only ballooned at the start of the second half, 20:14, as the European side failed to get any traction going in their attack, with Guatemala constantly punishing them on fast breaks, taking advantage of every mistake made by the opponent.
In fact, Guatemala finished the game with 10 of their 28 goals scored via fast breaks, as there was little Azerbaijan could do to get a grip on the game. The closest they could get was cutting the gap to three goals (20:17) with 20 minutes to go, but Guatemala calling a timeout was an excellent move that yielded immediate dividends.
It was the turnovers that really took the air from Azerbaijan, with 26 turnovers registered in the game, basically handing the game to Guatemala on a plate. And on their way to a historic achievement, Guatemala really took advantage and used an 8:2 run to settle the game once and for all.
Therefore, Guatemala sealed their first-ever win at the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship (28:20) and will now face the Republic of Moldova in the Placement Match 9/10, a historic achievement for a side that has little tradition or experience in handball, one that can galvanise the handball in the country.
On the other hand, Azerbaijan have just confirmed that this will be their worst finish in the competition's history, having previously ended up in 10th place at Bulgaria 2017 and Georgia 2019. They will now head to the Placement Match 11/12, where they face Malta on Sunday.
Player of the Match: Erick Ruben Estrada Colocho (Guatemala)