Rwanda claim historic first win at the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship
07 Aug. 2023
African vice-champions Rwanda wrote history in the Varaždin Arena, throwing off the President’s Cup Group I with their maiden win at the IHF Men’s Youth World Championship, a true nail-biter against Morocco (33:32).
Another hard-fought clash saw Montenegro edge a win against Mexico (28:27), with the latter side being close to securing their first win in history, too, after they led until the 50th minute.
Sweden secured the best start for any team in the President’s Cup, creating one of their highest wins in history at the IHF Men’s Youth World Championship (50:17) against the United States of America, confirming their status as the team to beat in this part of the competition.
In Group II, Japan dominated Bahrain in an all-Asian clash (33:21), complicating the maths in the group by taking their first win at Croatia 2023, improving their chances of a better placement at the end.
- Group I
Morocco vs Rwanda (17:16)
Having won two days ago against New Zealand, their first win at the IHF Men’s Youth World Championship since 2007, Morocco were eyeing to double down on the result against a fellow African side, Rwanda, with another win seeing them with a chance to feature in the Placement Matches 17-20.
Rwanda had previously conceded three losses and were searching for their first win in history in the world handball flagship competition. Therefore their incentive was big, and they did deliver a better start, taking an 11:9 lead after only 14 minutes in what proved to be a very fast-paced game.
However, Morocco managed to slow down the rhythm, and it was the right bet to make for the African team, as their pair of backs, Noam Bernard El Ouadrhiri and Abdellah Razgui, combined for nine goals to turn the game on its head.
A 6:2 run spurred by El Ouadrhiri and Razgui was crucial for Morocco to take back the lead and enter the break with a 17:16 lead, which applied more pressure on the inexperienced Rwanda side, which still dreamt about their first win.
But Morocco failed to get their team going at the start of the second half, which enabled Rwanda to get back into the lead, courtesy of an excellent performance from wing Yves Kayijama, who finished the match with eight goals, helping open a two-goal gap (27:25), with 12 minutes to go in the match.
But it was right-handed right wing Andre Akayezu who helped Rwanda the most, scoring six goals from difficult positions, including three of the last four goals for his side, to help Rwanda seal their maiden win in history (33:32), after a nail-biting finish, which saw Morocco left reeling.
With their first win at the IHF Men’s Youth World Championship, Rwanda will now hope to earn a better finish, especially as they will be favoured against New Zealand in Tuesday’s game. At the same time, Morocco face Algeria in another crunch clash.
hummel Player of the Match: Andre Akayezu (Rwanda)
- Group II
Bahrain vs Japan 21:33 (10:13)
While failing to progress to the main round, Bahrain were still one of the big surprises of Croatia 2023 after finishing fifth at the 2022 AHF Asian Men’s Youth Handball Championship last summer.
Bahrain had previously won against the champions, the Republic of Korea, in the preliminary round. Therefore Japan, which finished fourth in the continental competition, knew they were expecting a tough battle.
Yet the plucky Japan side, who exerted pressure over Iceland, Czechia and Egypt in the preliminary round, looked to be on top of Bahrain’s challenge, whose back Jaffar Farsan shined again, scoring four goals in the first half.
Unfortunately for Bahrain, that meant 40% of their goals in the first 30 minutes, as Japan decoded their slow-paced game and acted appropriately in defence, stopping their opponents in their tracks.
But it was not until late in the first half when Japan really delivered their best game, using a 4:1 run to create a three-goal gap (13:10) at the break, as it became obvious that Bahrain needed to go back to the drawing board and rethink their approach.
As goalkeeper Ryo Komoda entered the fray in the second half, he recorded six saves between the 31st and 45th minutes, closing the goal behind him for an outstanding 50% saving efficiency. That enabled Japan to play without the added pressure in attack, and the results were seen on the scoreboard.
As seven players scored at least three goals, Japan first opened a seven-goal gap (22:15), which eventually morphed into an even bigger one, with Bahrain completely losing their focus in the dying minutes of the game.
A dominating display saw Japan secure their first win at Croatia 2023 (33:21), and now the maths in Group II of the President’s Cup became more complicated.
Japan tied Bahrain on points and are only two points behind leaders Iceland. Another full Asian clash awaits Japan after their win against Bahrain, a game against rivals Republic of Korea, while Bahrain meet Iceland in the other game scheduled on Tuesday, with the first place in the standings up for grabs.
hummel Player of the Match: Masaki Sakai (Japan)
- Group III
Montenegro vs Mexico 28:27 (12:15)
In an extremely hard-fought match, Montenegro fought back in the second half and claimed their second win. With four points in hand, the Balkan side will meet direct rivals Chile on Tuesday, fighting for a spot in the Placement Matches 17-20.
Mexico should be credited for their fighting spirit, as the Central Americans won the opening half and were close to earning their first point(s) at the event. But in the end, the Mexicans extended their losing run to four matches and can only finish third in Group III with a win over Georgia tomorrow.
It was a close game from the first minute, as both teams took turns in the lead. However, some good defensive work lifted Mexico to a 3:0 run between minutes 22 and 28, which resulted in their three-goal lead at half-time.
However, the break helped the Montenegrins refresh their minds and bodies, improving as the match restarted. Midway through the second half, the Europeans were already in front (21:20). Their goalkeepers Savo Vujovic and Lazar Sredanovic combined for 15 saves, and it helped Montenegro to grab the initiative, as their Mexican colleagues stopped only three shots together.
Mexico refused to give up and pulled in front again at 23:22 with 10 minutes left. But the Europeans had more energy left, and as Milorad Bakic scored three goals in the remaining time, his team led 28:26 with 19 seconds before Mexico cut the deficit to one goal.
hummel Player of the Match: Jose Alfonso Flores Woolfolk (Mexico)
- Group IV
Sweden vs United States of America 50:17 (24:10)
After failing to qualify for the main round, Sweden need to redeem themselves in the Presidents' Cup and aim to at least finish at the top. They made the first step on that path by winning over the United States of America in a game which proved to be yet another offensive parade by the Scandinavian side.
The United States of America made a run for it at the start of the game in Opatija, but the Swedish side proved to be a tough nut to crack, and soon they realised their chance of having a close game were slim to none. As Sweden made a 9-0 goal run, leaving the USA without a goal scored for ten minutes, USA's confidence in the attack and toughness in defence were reeling with each passing minute.
Debutants never had their attack above 40% of efficiency and could rely only on Maksim McCauley and Jordan Fernandez. Not much changed in the second half. Sweden's fast breaks and breakthroughs were devastating for the USA. It took the American side eight minutes of the second half to score their first goal, and in the meantime, Sweden had another nine straight goals scored. However, not only the offensive skills were the key but also goalkeeper Arvid Skoog and his 19 saves.
There was no stopping Sweden, who managed to score more goals than in the first half and clinched their second-highest win at the 10th IHF Men's Youth World Championship. ''hummel Player of the Match'' Linus Gustavsson delivered precise shots. Lowe Sundevall joined him by the end of the game with the same number of goals – nine.
The United States of America need to bounce back ahead of the last group game against Burundi, in which they might get their hands on the first win ever. On the bright side, 17 is the second-highest number of goals scored by the USA at the competition after previously netting 21 against Argentina. One of the best attacks in the competition, Sweden, now at 169 goals scored in four games, will try to extend their winning streak against Argentina.
hummel Player of the Match: Linus Gustavsson (Sweden)
Photos: Croatia 2023/Kolektiff images