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Belgium create history to seal World Championship berth

EHF / Adrian Costeiu

With the exclusion of Russia from all international competitions, part 1 of qualification phase 2 for the 2023 IHF Men's World Championship provided the first team qualified for the final tournament in Poland and Sweden.

With a 57:54 aggregate win against Slovakia, Belgium mounted a historic comeback to avenge their 28:26 loss from three days ago and seal their first berth at an IHF Men's World Championship.

Greece and North Macedonia also progressed from part 1 of phase 2, but they will face new opponents on 13 and 16 April in the next round.

Romania vs North Macedonia 24:22 (12:12)

North Macedonia won 52:46 on aggregate

  • North Macedonia's head coach, Kiril Lazarov, was his team's top scorer in this game, with six goals
  • a 4:1 run between the 23rd and the 28th minutes helped Romania bounce back and tie the game, 11:11, as North Macedonia could only take the lead once in the second half
  • Romania's biggest lead of the game – three goals, 20:17, in the 50th minute – helped the home fans dream about a miraculous comeback, only for North Macedonia to tie the game, 21:21, with four minutes to go
  • this was Romania's second win in five games in the last four years against North Macedonia, both of which came at home in the IHF Men’s World Championship qualification phase
  • North Macedonia will face the Czech Republic on 13 and 17 April for a place at the final tournament in Poland and Sweden. North Macedonia will host the second leg of this tie

Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Greece 26:28 (10:12)

Greece won 52:43 on aggregate

  • goalkeeper Petros Boukovinas was Greece's hero once again, saving 13 shots for a 39.3 per cent save efficiency, after he stopped half of Bosnia and Herzegovina's shots in the first leg
  • after not featuring in the first leg, Greece left back Theodoros Boskos scored 10 goals in this game, the top performance from any player
  • with the win against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece extended their winning streak in the qualification phase for Poland and Sweden 2023 to eight games
  • Greece had not played for an IHF Men's World Championship berth since 2011, when they suffered a 52:40 aggregate loss against Germany
  • on 13 and 16 April, Greece will play against Montenegro as they aim for their second World Championship participation and their first since Tunisia in 2005

Belgium vs Slovakia 31:26 (14:11)

Belgium won 57:54 on aggregate

  • after Russia's exclusion from all international competitions, Belgium progressed to the IHF Men's World Championship for the first time
  • a 6:2 run to start the second half, powered by three goals from 20-year-old Kobe Serras, was the turning point of the game, as Belgium opened an unassailable 20:13 lead
  • in the past 10 editions, Belgium had lost 27 of their 33 games in qualification for the IHF Men's World Championship, but they produced one of the biggest surprises in the competition to seal a spot in the final tournament
  • Slovakia's attacking efficiency dipped to a meagre 43 per cent, as their most experienced players – right wing Tomas Urban and centre back Lubomir Duris – combined for seven goals from 16 shots, while Belgium goalkeeper Jef Lettens saved 18 shots for a 41 per cent save efficiency
  • Belgium became the 32nd European team to reach the IHF Men's World Championship, having never previously come close to fighting for a spot in the competition

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