The GB men’s team more than fulfilled their group stage ambitions at the IHF Emerging Nations Championship in Georgia, by securing a semi-final spot thanks to a winning run of four matches.
GB opened the tournament in group A with a 37-25 defeat to Cuba, one of the pre-tournament favourites. GB were level for much of the first half, but Cuba pulled away and at the break were 17-9 up. GB showed great courage to come back into the game, at one point just 24-26 down, but a spate of two minute suspensions stunted GB’s run and Cuba went on to win by seven. Nate Green top-scored with eight goals.
Next up GB played India and, after a hesitant start, GB led 16-13 at the break and then stamped their authority on the game in the second half to win 38-28. Seb Edgar scored an impressive 14 goals, while goalkeeper Owen Insou made 14 saves in goal.
In their third match in three days, GB made a storming start against Azerbaijan and were leading 20-15 at half-time. However their opponents found their pace in the second half and mounted a comeback, at one point levelling the score at 28-28, but GB kept their nerve and pulled away again to win 36-35 in nail biting finish. Seb Edgar was again on target with 11 goals.
A welcome rest day followed and the GB team were buoyed by the arrival of Vestas Ciudad Real pair Brian Negrete Lindsay and Josh Da Silva, who had missed the start of the tournament because of the Spanish League play-offs.
At this stage GB were third in group A, behind China, their next opponents. This proved to be another physical encounter with neither team taking control in the first half, which ended 12-12. The second half saw the teams continue to trade goals until GB scored three without reply, but China came back to within one goal in the 48th minute. GB were defending superbly and scored four without replay and this time China could find no way back.
The final group match against Colombia effectively became a head-to-head, to decide who would join Cuba in the semi-finals. Both teams started nervously and after 23 minutes the score was just 8-8, but GB scored five unanswered goals to go into the break 13-8 up. GB kept up the pressure in the second half, increased their lead to 21-13 with 18 minutes remaining, and could afford to turn the bench in the latter stages as they cruised to a 27-23 win and a place in the semi-finals. It was their fourth consecutive win.
Seb Edgar finished the main round as the tournament’s top scorer with 51 goals, while GB have the second most efficient finishing in the competition, with the team scoring off 63.9% of their shots.
GB had finished 9th and 11th at previous editions of the Emerging Nations Championship, so the semi-final spot, achieved without any funding, is a true testament to the hard work and commitment of the players and staff. As they go into their semi-final match on Saturday, they can justifiably be proud of what they have already achieved at this tournament.
GB Head Coach Ricardo Vasconcelos commented “we are extremely happy with this historic achievement and humbled by all the support we have been receiving from back home. The boys have progressed from game to game and we are looking forward for the next two games that will be undoubtedly a huge challenge”.
GB will play hosts Georgia in the semi-final at 3pm (UK time) on Saturday. Cuba play Bulgaria in the other semi-final.
GB results at Emerging Nations Championship
Final matches Sunday