Croatia seal main round berth, with Kuwait, Norway and Saudi Arabia clinching first wins
23 Jun. 2023
Croatia are the next team to ensure a main round berth at the 24th IHF Men's Junior World Championship, taking a clear 48:23 win over the United States of America, but they will need to wait to find out if they secured first place in the group, after the game between France and Poland.
Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia and Norway each clinched nail-biting wins, their first in the competition, 28:27 against Cuba and 32:31 against Argentina, respectively, while Kuwait also registered a big win over rookies Costa Rica, 41:28.
- Group A
Croatia vs United States of America 48:23 (22:10)
With the gap between Croatia and the United States of America being clear from the start, the only question of the game was exactly how big the difference was going to be at the final whistle, as the European side needed a win higher than 25 goals to improve their chances to win the group, in a head-to-head battle against Poland.
A 4:0 run to start the game for Croatia morphed into a 12:5 lead, as Matija Car, Zlatko Raužan and Ivan Barbic each scored at free will, finishing the first half with five goals each. Eventually, half of the job was done in the first 30 minutes, when Croatia took a 22:10 lead and were looking like a good bet to improve the gap in the second half.
A pacy wing, Ivan Barbić was responsible for most of Croatia's fast breaks in the game, and he finished the game with 10 goals, jumping to the sixth place in the top goal scorer standings with 21 goals.
However, Croatia sealed their objective, which was to win by at least 25 goals to leapfrog Poland in case of a tie at points by the skin of their teeth, securing only a 48:23 win, as the USA had their best-attacking outing at Germany/Greece 2023, scoring one goal more than in the game against Poland.
Still, Croatia can secure first place in the group provided Poland win against France by a single goal and do not score more than 27 goals after their previous win against the reigning champion and the draw against Poland.
On the other hand, the USA go to the President's Cup with three losses and zero points, but the quality of the teams they faced in Magdeburg was definitely one too big for an inexperienced team.
hummel Player of the Match: Zlatko Raužan (Croatia)
- Group C
Kuwait vs Costa Rica 41:28 (16:9)
Kuwait welcomed their first win at Germany/Greece 2023 and are going to the President's Cup Group II with two points. After two straight defeats against Brazil and Portugal, Kuwait proved to be combative compared to the debutants at the competition, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica had enough strength to keep up with Kuwait for 15 minutes of the match, but lacking impetus, soon they were trailing. The Asian side, boosted with 44% saving efficiency by Ahmad Aljuwaieed, stepped up a gear and made a 5-0 goal run.
After the break, we saw fast-paced handball, with goals easily scored on both sides. And it was like a competition between Kuwait's left wing Fawaz Almashari and Costa Rica's left back Alex Trujillo Velásquez, both netting four times in the opening six minutes of the second half.
However, Costa Rica's gust suddenly vanished as they slowly faltered, forcing head coach Hanner Fabricio Parra Martinez to give some minutes on the court to the players with less playing time. With an 8-goal outing, Drivan Fabián Cubero Gómez was Costa Rica's top scorer with seven scored in the second half.
Kuwait's biggest lead was by 16 goals (31:15), and with a secure win in their hands, they loosened up a bit, allowing Costa Rica to close the gap. But not too much as Kuwait surpassed 40 goals, with 13 out of 16 players scoring at least once.
hummel Player of the Match: Fawaz Almashari (Kuwait)
- Group E
Argentina vs Norway 31:32 (12:18)
A 12-goal outing from Martin Nicolas Jung was not enough for Argentina to save a point against Norway in a nail-biting game, which saw the South American side go down early, only to emerge after a strong comeback in the second half and apply some serious pressure on the European side.
Norway's performance at the 24th IHF Men's Junior World Championship was hardly satisfying for a team used to delivering good results. Therefore, the European side desperately needed a positive result against Argentina, and they duly delivered a good first half, 18:12.
It was mainly thanks to goalkeeper Henrik Ibsen, who saved 10 shots for a 32% saving efficiency throughout the match, but as Norway started to change their lines, issues and cracks in their armour started to appear.
While the European side had a seven-goal lead, 26:19, with 10 minutes to go, that lead evaporated in the last minutes, as Argentina finished the game strong, with Jung and Juan Bautista Ceccardi proving to be unstoppable.
With only two minutes to go, Argentina cut the gap to a single goal, but Norway eventually proved too strong, scoring in each of their last three attacks to deliver a 32:31 win, their first at Germany/Greece 2023, which also helps them take the two points into the President's Cup, where Argentina will start with zero points.
hummel Player of the Match: Sondre Mikel Solheim (Norway)
- Group H
Cuba vs Saudi Arabia 27:28 (10:16)
Sajjad Al Fardan's shot just four seconds from the final buzzer secured Saudi Arabia's first win at the current IHF Men's Junior World Championship. Thanks to this result, the Asians will start the President's Cup with two points.
Cuba, who are playing their maiden tournament at this level, were very close to snatching historic points but ultimately came up short. So they will proceed to the consolation tournament with no points in hand.
The Cubans had big problems in defence in both previous matches, conceding more than 40 goals against both Greece and Egypt. The start of their match on Friday seemed to confirm this impression, as Saudi Arabia opened a 12:4 lead midway through the first half.
Murtaja Alkhedhrawi, who was elected hummel Player of the Match, led the Asian team in attack, in the end, becoming the top scorer of the match with nine goals. But just like in both previous encounters, his team slowed down as the game progressed.
Cuba capitalised on their rivals' mistakes and started to slash the gap. While two players, Maiko Vazques and Samuel Cordies, had combined for 30 of 54 Cuban goals in the previous games, now the Caribbeans did much better as a team.
After a long chase, Cuba drew level at 23:23, later at 25:25, and 30 seconds from full-time, Andro Gonzales Ruiz made the score 27:27 with a spectacular shot. However, Saudi Arabia scored a last-gasp winner and grabbed two points.
hummel Player of the Match: Murtaja Alkhedhrawi (Saudi Arabia)