The GB men’s team created a little bit of British Handball history this weekend, reaching the semi-finals of the IHF Men’s Emerging Nations Championship for the first time.
At the end of a week which inspired the British handball community, Ricardo Vasconcelos’ men exceeded all expectations to register a four-match winning run in the group stages to book their semi-final place, before ending in fourth place, a momentous effort from the team which had finished 11th at the last edition, back in 2017.
Semi-Final – GB-Georgia (21-28)
Their semi-final was always going to be complicated against the hosts and tournament favourites Georgia, especially in front of a partisan crowd. However, just as before, the young GB team started fearlessly and held their own throughout the first half, even leading by two goals at one point, until a late surge saw Georgia reach the break 13:10 up.
GB stayed close in the second half, even closing the gap to 18:16 down midway through the half, but GB lost the influential Seb Edgar to an ankle injury and Georgia, helped by eight goals from Montpellier sensation Giorgi Tskhovrebadze, again edged ahead. GB fought bravely, but could not close the gap and a late flurry of goals gave the Georgian team a flattering 28-21 win.
Seb Edgar was again the top scorer with seven goals from eight shots before his injury, while Brian Negrete Lindsay scored four and was named GB man-of-the-match.
Bronze medal match – GB-Bulgaria (31-47)
The team were disappointed, but picked themselves up for the bronze medal play-off against Bulgaria, a team that had beaten them in January in the EHF European Championship qualifiers.
Bulgaria started at a blistering pace and GB found themselves 5:1 down inside the first five minutes. A tired British side struggled to cope with the pace of Bulgarian attacks, while at the other end made too many technical errors in attack. The gap grew and Bulgaria already had a commanding 26:17 lead at half-time.
The second half followed much the same pattern, with Bulgaria playing a fast game and preventing GB from settling in defence. GB turned the bench in the closing stages but Bulgaria went on to win 47:31 in a high-scoring match.
Joshua Da Silva scored eight and took the GB man-of-the-match award, while Seb Edgar, visibly not fully recovered from his injury, battled-on to score eight goals, five from the penalty line and they were enough for the France-based played to finish the championship as the overall top scorer with 66 goals.
GB Head Coach Ricardo Vasconcelos commented: “We are naturally disappointed to have lost the last two matches. The team was tired and we had some injuries to manage, but there are so many positives we can draw from this tournament as we build for the future. This is a very young team and we will bounce back.”
“The defeat can take nothing away from the team’s huge achievement at the championship,” said British Handball Chairman Paul Bray. “They exceeded expectations and created history by reaching the semi-finals, plus they proved an inspiration for the British Handball community back home and all the young players watching.
“We have received many positive messages from across the handball world about how impressed people are with the clear development of British Handball on the global stage.”