Croatia, Poland book last tickets to under-21 worlds
Croatia, with a dominating performance, and Poland, thanks to an incredible comeback and a last-second penalty in their final match, both won their respective group Sunday at a qualification tournament in Chieti, Italy, to claim the last two berths for European teams at the 2023 IHF Men’s Under-21 World Championship in Germany and Greece this summer.
Croatia and Poland join Denmark, Faroe Islands, France, Hungary, Iceland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden, who qualified during the M20 EHF EURO 2022, as well as Germany and Greece as the co-hosts of the championship, which will run from 20 June until 2 July.
- while Croatia dominated group A and won all their matches by double-digit figures, Poland only secured qualification in the three-team group B following a narrow draw in their last match against Norway
- Croatia eased past Israel (36:25), Montenegro (37:24) and hosts Italy (33:16) to finish top of group A; Israel were runners-up, ahead of third-place Italy
- Ivan Barbic was Croatia’s best scorer, with 19 goals; Israel duo Or Refael Levi and Nadav Cohen were the tournament top scorers with 23 goals each
- Croatia were the runners-up at the 2019 edition of the U21 World Championship, losing to France in the final
- in a completely different scenario, Poland had to wait until the final minute of their last match, against Norway, to earn the top spot in group B
- both teams had previously beaten Czech Republic to set up their ‘final’ on Sunday; however, Poland (+8) had the better goal difference than Norway (+5), so the 28:28 draw after a last-second penalty from Marcin Gluszczenko was just enough for them to go through
- Poland’s Filip Michalowicz and Norway’s Even Haugli were the leading scorers in this group with 10 goals each
Poland book a last-minute ticket – literally
In the group B closer, Poland initially looked like cruising towards their place at the final tournament in Germany and Greece. Needing just a draw, they led Norway 15:10 at half-time. However, the match turned around after the break and the Scandinavians were still leading by three goals (28:25) with just over one minute left to play.
Patryk Wasiak made it 28:26 with 62 seconds on the clock, before Marcin Gluszczenko became the big man for Poland. The centre back converted two penalties – the last one after the final buzzer – to give his team a 28:28 draw, just enough to beat Norway on goal difference in the race for top spot in group B.