Croatia men claim first-ever The World Games title
16 Jul. 2022
Croatia have won the men’s beach handball competition at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, USA.
They defeated Qatar 2-1 in the final at Sloss Furnaces on Friday evening.
Just like the German women earlier, Croatia won The World Games gold for the first time and also like the German women, it was their second championship gold in two months after winning the 2022 IHF Beach Handball World Championship in Greece last month.
However, Croatia had to come from behind to top the podium, losing the first period 14:17. They then came back in the second (20:16) and secured a 9:6 shoot-out win after Hani Khaki was shown a red card with Qatar’s fourth shot.
It was left to Ivan Dumencic to score the single point and ensure another gold, their 33rd beach handball medal in total.
They also had two members in the All-star Team, including Greece 2022 MVP and top scorer Lucian Bura, who was named best right wing and Dominic Markovic, who was named best goalkeeper.
“The pure mentality of a winner is what adorns this team the most,” said Croatia coach Mladen Paradzik to BHC.com.hr. “That's what keeps them together and it's wonderful to lead such a team together with your assistants (coaches).
“It was a nervous final, but that's how it is when you're playing for a medal, and I'd say that was expected given the importance of the match. It’s a great conclusion to the season. Our goal has been achieved, and now we are striving towards the future and the Olympics.”
Ahead of the game, Croatia captain Ivan Juric had said it was time for a gold after three bronzes in a row (2005, 2009, 2013) and silver last time out (2017). He was proved right on Friday.
"The gold finally arrived,” he said to BHC.com.hr. “The match was very difficult, Qatar was a great opponent. They read our game in the first set. In the second set, we stepped up our game in attack, with a good defence that was good in the first and second half.
“We are returning to Croatia with a full heart and happy.”
Despite their loss, Qatar’s silver is their first, and it is also their highest The World Games ranking. But in the last three editions Croatia have now prevented them from finishing higher, beating them in the 2017 semi-finals and 2013 bronze-medal match.
Qatar’s Ahmed Hassan was named MVP and best specialist, while Ali Kenaoui was voted in as best defender.
In the bronze-medal match it was another loss for the host nation, this time against Brazil (0-2), who are the record-winners of the tournament but who have never won bronze. It was their second third place following the same place at Greece 2022.
Argentina finished fifth with a 2-0 win over Puerto Rico in a duel of the debutants. The winning side’s Nahuel Baptista added 18 points to his goal tally at Birmingham 2022 to take him above a century of points and end as the tournament top scorer (111 points).
“The truth is that I am very happy with the closure of the tournament that the boys did,” said Argentina coach Sebastian Ferraro about his team, who beat Croatia on Wednesday, to ihf.info.
“You have a different flavour when you finish the tournament winning and playing so well. We found our game and managed to impose our rhythm, when those two things we know we can achieve great results.”