Hosts Croatia make it three out of three against Portugal, while Faroe Islands write history yet again
05 Aug. 2023
Croatia cemented their status as one of the top favourites to seal the gold medal at the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship with their third win in a row (37:28) against Portugal and will start the main round with two points.
The biggest shock of the competition came in Group H, where the Faroe Islands snook through in the must-win game against Sweden, delivering another vintage performance to clinch a 34:31 win and eliminate the Scandinavian side, which will continue in the President’s Cup.
Norway also made it three out of three in Group F with a dominating display against Montenegro (41:22), sealing their main round berth and joining North Macedonia in the next phase.
Having already secured the first place in Group D, Spain excelled once again and extended their winning run to three games after their 38:22 win over the Republic of Korea.
- Group A
Portugal vs Croatia 27:38 (12:19)
A strong defence was always fundamental for Croatia, being the key factor for all their success in the past 20 years in all age categories. And why should a successful recipe be changed? This is exactly what Croatia thought before the start of the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship, and this is what they delivered in the preliminary round, taking three wins in three matches.
Over the 180 minutes played, Croatia conceded only 64 goals, the fourth lowest number so far in the whole competition, but the true test came on Saturday when the hosts met Portugal, a difficult team to play against and especially to defend against.
But Croatia confirmed their credentials with a strong display, especially between the 17th and 23rd minutes, when the win against Portugal was born, with a 6:1 run for the hosts being the backbone of their third consecutive win.
It was, of course, about defence, as Portugal’s attacks hit a brick wall and their efficiency dropped, especially as goalkeeper Tin Herceg saved three of his six shots in the first half in that span. But it was also about the attack, where centre back Vito Glivetić confirmed his absolutely excellent potential.
Croatia, of course, have a tradition of bringing hugely talented centre backs into the fold, with Ivano Balić, Domagoj Duvnjak and Luka Cindrić being prime examples of the constant pipeline of talent brought forward by Croatia. And Glivetić might just be the next name on that list.
With six goals and two assists, Glivetić totally outplayed Portugal’s defence, leading his side to a clear 19:12 lead at the break, with Croatia only having to take care and protect that lead in the second half, only a miraculous Portugal comeback being able to derail what the hosts had built in the first half.
It was more of the same for Croatia in the second half, with Aleksandar Čaprić joining Glivetić in constantly hampering the Portugal defence, with the hosts’ win being absolutely never in doubt, thanks to a fantastic display, maybe the best one in the whole competition so far.
Both Čaprić and Glivetić finished with eight goals each, as Croatia eventually sealed a clear 38:27 win. With three wins in three games, Croatia will now start the main round with two points, the same as Hungary, while Slovenia and Portugal enter the fray on zero points, in dire need of wins to displace the two leaders.
hummel Player of the Match: Aleksandar Čaprić (Croatia)
- Group D
Spain vs Republic of Korea 38:22 (17:12)
With Spain already through and the Republic of Korea already eliminated, it would have been easy for the European side not to push the pedal to the metal and secure their third win in as many games at the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship.
Yet the reigning European champions at this age category pulled no punches and started off strong, with a 14:5 lead after only 17 minutes, as the Republic of Korea really failed to get anything going in attack, rather than turning the ball over 10 times over that span.
Moreover, Korea’s players were frustrated by the excellent start from goalkeeper Pol Amores Hernandez, who saved four of the first eight shots he faced for a 50% saving efficiency, while left wing Xavier González Unciti was unstoppable, scoring six times.
But the game evened itself out with a 5:0 unanswered Korea run, as Spain’s defence grew tired and failed to get any meaningful stops at the end of the first half, with the gap suddenly reduced to only five goals at the break, 17:12.
Brothers Djordje and Petar Cikusa I Jelicic were Spain’s main engines in the second half, with the two backs combining for 10 goals, with five each, as the European side stayed away from any potential comeback from Korea.
The Asian side worked hard, and did their best but missed too many easy chances to have a shot in the game, conceding their third loss in a row, 38:22.
Having already won against Bahrain and Brazil, Spain were sure of securing the first place in the group and starting the main round with two points, but they duly delivered another excellent win, a morale boost before their clashes against Czechia and Egypt in the main round, which will be decisive for their future in the competition.
With their third consecutive loss, the Republic of Korea will now have to win against Japan and Iceland to avoid their worst-ever finish in the world handball flagship competition for this age category, the 21st place in 2013.
hummel Player of the Match: Petar Cikusa I Jelicic (Spain)
- Group F
Norway vs Montenegro 41:22 (22:10)
Norway ended the group stage with a perfect record of three wins in as many games and finished top of Group F, taking two points with them to the next stage. In contrast, Montenegro suffered their second straight defeat and will go to the President's Cup.
The Balkan side needed a big win in this encounter to earn a main round berth, but Norway took early control of the game. A combination of solid defence and free-flowing attack helped them to pull clear at 10:5 midway through the first half. Norway continued to push forward, as an 85% shot efficiency in the opening 30 minutes helped them score as many as 22 goals before the break.
The game was all but decided, but Norway continued to demonstrate their firepower after the restart. Lasse Sunde Lid did a good job in attack, finishing the game with seven goals, while Marius Olseth and Kasper Iversen netted six times each, and Oscar Larsen Syvertsen made some important saves.
Notably, the Scandinavians scored nine goals from fast breaks in this match.
The gap continued growing, and Norway passed the 30-goal mark in the 44th minute. In the end, they scored even more than the day before, when they had beaten Georgia 38:24, and their 19-goal victory left Montenegro no chance to reach the main round.
hummel Player of the Match: Oscar Larsen Syvertsen (Norway)
- Group H
Sweden vs Faroe Islands 31:34 (14:14)
The Faroe Islands believed in a miracle and emerged victorious from the decisive game against Sweden. In a close match, the Faroese got their revenge for a 29:32 defeat at the M18 EHF EURO 2022 and on the power, incredible Oli Mittun leapfrogged Sweden and sent them to the Presidents Cup.
In a game that saw determining the last main round passenger from Group H, you just know the fighting spirit was at its maximum. The Faroe Islands were in a subordinate position and needed the best day at the office, while Sweden knew a tie was enough. However, Sweden were not backing down in any moment.
In a well-balanced game with strong defences on both sides and fast-paced handball, the winner was decided in the last seven minutes of the game. After the initial narrow lead by Faroese, Swedish players took advantage of the opponent's five-minute goal stint mid-first half and went on a two-goal break (9:7).
Yet, the Faroe Islands, on the wings of Oli Mittun, made a turnaround and took control of the game. Sweden was forced to call a time-out shortly before the half-time break, but before that, Emil Holmberg Schatzl read Faroese intentions well and sealed his sixth save of the day.
The tension in the second half was as high as the stakes. The minimum lead was switching from one die to another while both head coaches were trying different tactical approaches. However, they both were sticking to the 6-0 defence. The Faroe Islands were the first side the gain more significant lead and it was a turning point for the game.
They built the three-goal lead on Swedish mistakes which was sealed with a seven-against-six scheme gone wrong as goalkeeper Aleksandar Lacok scored for 29:26. You could hear the crowd getting louder and louder with each passing minute in Hall Marino Cvetković in Opatija as Sweden continued to pounce in efforts to catch a tie.
It seemed the pressure was too intense for some players who kept going heads-in into the Faroese defence, but still they almost delivered a nail-biting finish when Elias Lundstad closed the gap to one (31:32). Hero of the Faroe Islands? Well, Mister 17 goals – Oli Mittun. And the two last ones were something else and worth the main round spot.
Sweden are set to have their worst placement ever at the IHF Men's Youth World Championship as their previous lowest ranking was 11th place in 2019. Debutants Faroe Islands are living the dream and will have to put up a good fight in the main round group IV with Germany, Saudi Arabia and Iran, as they are starting with no points.
hummel Player of the Match: Oli Mittun (Faroe Islands)
Photos: Croatia 2023/Kolektiff images