17 Jan. 2019
African champions Tunisia earned a hard-fought win against Austria in the crucial battle for Group C’s remaining ticket to the 26th IHF Men’s World Championship main round. Tunisia were in control for most of the game before Austria equalised inside the last 10 minutes, but the African team held on to take the win.
The result also decided Chile’s fate. They still had a chance to reach the main round depending on the outcome of the match between Austria and Tunisia, but it will be the African side who remain in Herning to play Group II alongside Norway and Denmark.
Group C: Austria vs Tunisia 27:32 (14:18)
The African champions secured Group C’s third ticket to the main round with a commanding performance versus Austria that proved their opening losses were only due to the strength of their opponents (Norway and Denmark). Austria started the match better but by the fifth minute Tunisia had taken the lead and only increased their advantage from that point.
Tunisia keeper Makrem Missaoui had a good game in goal and was clearly the stronger between the posts as he supported the African team’s solid 6-0 defence. Tunisia used his saves to run counter attacks, leading left wing Oussama Boughanmi to be one of the most important attackers for his side, with a total of nine goals.
The African champions back court has been perhaps their strongest asset, and Austria focused their defence on dangerous left back Mosbah Sanai when they switched to a 5-1 system during the first half. By the 10th minute, Tunisia held a three-goal lead at 7:4 and when Austria’s starting keeper Kristian Pilipovic left the court for Thomas Bauer – playing his first match at the World Championship after joining the squad for round five – in the 20th minute, Tunisia held the same distance at 11:8.
Austria coach Patrekur Johannesson changed his line-up continuously, trying different tactics in an effort to decrease the deficit. However, key left back Nikola Bilyk and right wing Robert Weber stayed on for the majority of the match. It was Weber who gave Austria hope as he closed the gap to 14:16 on a long-range shot into Tunisia’s empty goal when Sanai was on the bench for two minutes, but the African team reopened the four-goal gap before the break.
Six minutes into the second period, Tunisia had reclaimed a clearer lead, at 22:16 – and then Austria came fighting back. As the last quarter began, the distance again stood at two, 21:23, before Sebastian Frimmel took his team within one off his seventh goal in the match.
With eight minutes on the clock, Gerald Zeiner levelled the score at 25:25, and a tense race to the final whistle followed – which Tunisia won in the end. From 25:26 in the 55th minute, the African champions pulled ahead to lead 30:27 as the clock ticked into the final 60 seconds. At that point, the match was won and the main round berth was secured.
Tunisia’s Mohamed Soussi received the hummel player of the match award.
Statements after the match:
Marouan Chouiref, player Tunisia: We didn’t start [the World Championship] really well. We had two matches that were really hard. But after, we woke up and we won two games. Today we won against Austria – Austria is a really good team. All the players, they play in the Bundesliga. We prepared for this game very well and we did our job today. We are very happy for this win and after we will go to the second round, and we will see.
Tobias Wagner, player Austria: We weren’t able to run fast enough back, especially in the first half, so the left wing from Tunisia (Boughanmi) was able to score many easy goals. And a little bit, we had no luck.
We didn’t give up after half-time. We knew we had to win by 11 goals, which was nearly impossible after half-time, but we didn’t give up and there was a draw – it was still a close game. In the end, minus five is too high.