Germany and France strike gold at the European Youth Olympic Festival
01 Aug. 2023
With more than 30 years of tradition, the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) is the largest multi-sport event for young athletes aged 14 to 18, and handball has historically played a large role in the event.
The 17th edition of the competition was held in Maribor, Slovenia, between 23 and 29 July 2023, with over 2,400 athletes taking part, including eight teams each in the men's handball and women's handball competition.
In both competitions, the eight teams were divided into two groups of four for the preliminary round, with the top two sides in each group progressing to the semi-finals and keeping their dreams alive.
Only two countries – Norway and hosts Slovenia – have taken part in both competitions, with six other different countries playing in the men's and the women's competitions.
Second title in 2023 for Germany
In the men's competition, no team secured a sweep of their opponents, as Croatia and Hungary made it through from Group A, with two wins and one draw each after the two powerhouses were locked into a tie (34:34) in the last game of the preliminary round.
In Group B, Germany clinched the first place in the group after wins against Iceland (35:24) and Norway (35:26), yet conceded a loss against hosts Slovenia (28:30). With Slovenia and Iceland each clinching two wins in their other two games, Germany, Slovenia and Iceland finished the group in a three-way tie, with Slovenia joining Germany in the semi-finals, thanks to their superior goal difference.
Backed by a nine-goal game from Bennet Strobel, Germany clinched a clear 31:24 win over Hungary in their semi-final, sealing a place in the final, where they met hosts Slovenia for the second time after an absolutely epic semi-final against Croatia.
Croatia led at the break (17:15), but Slovenia bounced back, and the game was tied after the regular time (34:34). Nothing could separate the two teams after extra time, with the game going on penalties, where 23 shots were taken, as Slovenia eventually took a 50:49 win.
Strobel shined once again for Germany, scoring five times in the final, to help his side enjoy a 32:25 win and secure the gold medal against Slovenia. It is the second international title for Germany in the younger age categories this summer, after the gold at the 2023 IHF Men's Junior World Championship.
Another thriller decided at penalties helped Hungary secure the bronze medal, with a 43:42 win over Croatia, in a game where János Dániel Barna scored 15 goals, while Márkó Eklemovic had 12 goals for Hungary.
Slovenia's Mai Marguc was the top scorer of the competition with 39 goals, followed by Barna (34 goals) and Portugal's Gabriel da Costa Sequeira (34 goals).
The women's competition had two clear favourites, which secured four wins out of four games to clinch their place in the final – France and Romania. France had the best attack (109 goals) and the best defence (71 conceded goals) in the preliminary round, while Romania followed suit, clinching clear wins against Slovenia (29:23), Poland (34:23) and Norway (34:28).
The semi-finals were two straightforward games, with France taking a 35:23 against Poland and Romania clinching a 32:20 win over the Netherlands to book their places in the final.
But Romania were no match for France in the final, with the French team having 13 different scorers in the game to clinch a 32:27 win, despite Romania's Teodora Damian and Enryka Bodijar, two powerful backs, combining for 14 goals. France dominated from start to finish and clinched a deserved gold medal, winning five games out of five in Maribor.
In the bronze medal game, Poland dominated the Netherlands (26:17) to finish the competition on a high and go home with a medal.
Romania's back Teodora Lavinia Damian was the top scorer of the competition with 42 goals, followed by Slovenia's Tea Pogorelc (41 goals) and Norway's Edle Eik Litland (30 goals).
Photos: EYOF Maribor 2023 / Handball Federation France