Hosts Croatia clinch bronze medal in dramatic match against Egypt
13 Aug. 2023
In the highest-ever scoring bronze-medal match at the IHF Men's Youth World Championship, Croatia staved off multiple comeback attempts from Egypt to finish Croatia 2023 on a high, with a 39:37 win in extra time.
This is the fifth medal overall for Croatia at the world handball flagship competition in this age category and the first they sealed since Hungary in 2013, ending a 10-year drought.
- Croatia vs Egypt 39:37 after extra-time (18:17, 30:30)
They say it is not over until it is over, and the saying was perfectly showcased in the bronze-medal game at the 2023 IHF Men's Youth World Championship, a tough battle between hosts Croatia and the reigning champions Egypt, which produced both an entertaining match and the highest-ever scoring bronze medal match in the competition.
As per previous games, Egypt's main problem was that they could not control the start of the game, with the reigning champions turning the ball over six times in the first ten minutes, enabling hosts Croatia to take a commanding 5:1 lead, as captain Maksimilijan Molc led a 5-1 defence, which definitely took a toll from Egypt's attack.
The African side quickly started to adapt to the defence. However, Croatia still boasted a healthy 13:7 lead after 20 minutes, thanks to an excellent connection between their starting backs, Petar Krupić and Aleksandar Čaprić, with four goals each, with Egypt's defence still looking for answers.
They came at the right time, with a storming end of the first half for the African powerhouse, which got back into the groove slowly, but surely, cutting the gap meticulously, with line player Ziad Abdelrahim and back Mohamed Khallaf answering with four goals each.
While Croatia might have looked in total control, changing the lines did not work, with Krupić, centre back Vito Glivetić, and Čaprić reinserted into the line-up. Still, by that moment, Egypt had all the momentum and cut the gap to a single goal (18:17) at the break, as Croatia clearly needed more from their defence if they were to seal the bronze medal they had set their eyes on.
If Egypt do have an edge, it is undoubtedly about the pride and the grit they thoroughly displayed throughout the competition, fighting for every ball, something that was proven in the quarter-final against the Faroe Islands, when they tied the game from three goals down with only 69 seconds left in the game.
They failed to muster a comeback against Denmark, but the warning signs were there for Croatia. Therefore the hosts needed to adapt to seal the first medal at the IHF Men's Youth World Championship since Hungary 2013, ending a 10-year wait.
Egypt's resilience was tested at the start of the first half. Still, goalkeeper Omar Elkhatieb made three consecutive saves against Croatia's left wing Marko Bajan to keep his side alive, proving, once again, Egypt's resilience and never-say-die attitude, irrespective of the circumstances.
The two teams started trading out goals and saves, with Croatia's Tin Herceg making two crucial back-to-back saves, including a penalty. At the same time, Egypt's Youssef Salama was also excellent in one-on-one situations, as the two sides were deadlocked until the 49th minute when Croatia's defence stood tall again, stopping two consecutive Egypt attacks, lifting the European side to a 28:26 lead.
But, once again, the game was not over. With only one goal scored in the last six minutes and 28 seconds, Egypt miraculously stayed alive, forcing extra-time after the hosts missed chance after chance, including the game's last attack, without a clear mind in attack, as tired legs took over.
On paper, Egypt had better depth, having dispersed minutes more evenly throughout the game and the competition, but had to dig deep once again, displaying their trademark 3-3 defence, after Croatia opened another three-goal gap (34:31) after some exciting breakthroughs and more saves from Herceg, including a penalty.
Herceg might have finished the game with a 34% saving efficiency. Still, his saves were absolutely paramount in Croatia's win, as Egypt failed to score more than two goals in the first seven minutes of extra time, while the hosts marched on to the win, clearly being better equipped mentally to secure the bronze medal.
With their 39:37 win, staving another dramatic comeback attempt, Croatia secured their fifth medal at the IHF Men's Youth World Championship and their first since Hungary 2013, capping off an impressive competition, where they won six games, drew another one and lost one, the semi-final against Spain.
Egypt, the reigning champions, did their utmost to seal another medal, producing one of the finest-ever comebacks in the history of the competition but fell short of reaching their objective. However, this fourth place is still the second-best result in their history in the competition.
hummel Player of the Match: Tin Herceg (Croatia)
Photo: Croatia 2023/Kolektiff images