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2019 Men’s World Championship 2019 Men’s World Championship
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Date: 4/14/2019

Junior (U21) Competition: Sunday 14 April

A blistering start in the final for Kosovo, which saw them eight goals clear with just 16 minutes on the clock, was nearly not enough as an incredible chase from Chinese Taipei fell just short.

The Europeans eventually claimed the 2018-19 IHF Men’s Trophy Intercontinental Phase Junior title, defeating the Asian side 30:26 to also book the final qualification spot at the 2019 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship in Spain – the first time the IHF Trophy has provided a pathway to a world championship.

The bronze medal went to the United States of America after the 60 minutes of regulation time could not separate them in their clash against Paraguay, the USA winning in the first additional period of overtime.

3/4 Placement/Bronze Medal Match: Paraguay vs United States of America 34:36 (30:30) (17:12)

An action-packed intercontinental clash between South and North America had to go to the first period of overtime to be decided after 60 goals were not enough to separate these two teams. It was a completely different match to their first encounter two days ago when the USA easily won by nine (28:19).

Right from the very start the game was tactical with the USA’s Elyes Baltagi following Paraguay’s Alexi Duarte all over the court. America took a 4:1 lead after just five minutes but Paraguay pegged them back and kept in touch (7:7 – 12th minute), and the pattern repeated again with the US up 10:7 (15th minute), before Paraguay came back (12:11 to the USA, 20th minute). 

However, the half-time break came after a period of dominance from the USA team as they went in 17:12 up, their last first-half strike eliciting a big shout from USA’s Sebastian Wheeler, knowing a five-goal lead should have been enough to keep for the second period.

In the 41st minute, Paraguay came within one (21:20) as a silent USA bench was in stark contrast to a raucous Paraguayan one, although Giona Dobrani opened up a two-goal lead again (22:20) for his USA side.

Just as it seemed the United States would edge the win, American dangerman Amar Amitovic received a red card in the 54th minute and Paraguay never stopped believing they could get something, drawing level in the very last minute (30:30) after Matias Chaparro sunk home following a cross-court pass from Alexi Duarte.

But it was not over though as the USA then hit a post through Jonas Stromberg, before Paraguay set up their final play with 20 seconds left thanks to a time-out. They worked Luis Torres into a goalscoring situation, but USA goalkeeper Rene Ingram created the block to send the game into overtime.

And in the extra time Ingram stepped up for his side again, making three saves in the first 90 seconds for a 34:32 lead at the end of the first extra five minutes and when Paraguay saw their shots blocked or go wide in the second period, the game was up, and the bronze went to America.

Asaf Bengozi finished as the leading goalscorer for USA, on 11 goals while Guillermo Gimenez scored seven for the South Americans.

Gold Medal match: Kosovo vs Chinese Taipei 30:26 (12:10)

The Kosovo squad had said yesterday how important the ‘eighth man’ would be for their final today and so it proved as a noisy crowd of just under 1,000 spectators willed their team to the championship and the last ticket to the 2019 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship in Spain in July.

The result is historic for Kosovo, representing a side in team sports qualifying for a world championship, and the decision appeared clear already after 16 minutes in an unexpected opening period of complete dominance from the Europeans – they were 9:1 up against a Taipei side who failed with their blistering counter-attacks and highly-pressurised open defence.

But coach Su Ta Chin was the coolest guy in the hall as he did not panic, helping to guide his Chinese Taipei through the period, taking his first time-out after 11 minutes (6:1) and second after 16 minutes had passed and the score was 9:1 against his side.

Slowly but surely his side clawed the deficit back, firstly to just four down (11:7 – 24th minute) and then a 3:0 run at the end of the opening half made it 12:10, started by the industrious Suao-Tzu Tsai who acted quickly to steal a pass intended for Atdhe Basholli to Rinor Avdulli as Kosovo started an attack.

A time-out for Kosovo with just over 30 seconds left of the first half steadied nerves a little, although Taipei missed an opportunity to come within one when Ze-Si Li missed his opportunity at the death. The half ended with Kosovo two goals up, still leading, but shocked at having let a gigantic lead slip.

In the second half, the crowd realised their role was needed more than ever as they booed and whistled every Chinese Taipei possession, encouraging their team to go on a 4:0 run soon after Hsieh Chi-Hsuan had brought the game within one (12:11).

It was now a five-goal difference (35th minute) and Kosovo were not going to let a gold medal and historic place at Spain 2019 evade them. Recognising the urgency of the situation and support needed Basholli implored the crowd to raise their support up even further and they responded off court, like their team did on court as the game was seen out.

Drenit Tahirukaj top-scored with nine goals in the match for Kosovo while both Chen Shin-Hung and Ze-Si Li finished with seven strikes each for Chinese Taipei. 
Photo: Shpend Ahmeti/Kosovo Handball Federation