Another incredible handball January is behind us. World Championship in Germany and Denmark offered the fans some incredible handball, which was confirmed with record-breaking attendances and TV viewership numbers. Denmark defeated their Scandinavian rivals Norway in the final, France won the bronze medal beating Germany in the third-place match. However, we will look beyond the final day and reflect on how the entire Championship unfolded, especially for SEHA countries and players.
Croatia finished 6that the World Championship, which is two places behind their 2017 placement. Group stage was perfect with 5/5, including victories against Iceland, Macedonia and Spain. The Main Round was the reason Croatia did not compete for medals, after heart-breaking losses to Brazil and Germany. Lino Cervar’s men finished the Main Round with a victory against the reigning World champions, which is always a terrific accomplishment for Croatia. After that match, there was one more task ahead, ultimately proving to be too much. Croatia lost to Sweden in the 5thplace match, but still achieved the main goal- qualifiers for Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. The future looks bright again, as players like Sipic, Vrankovic and Mandic got a huge role in the team. Duvnjak, Karacic, Horvat, Strlek and other veterans definitely have more left in the tank to compete for medals in the future. Marin Sego was phenomenal for Croatia, and will likely be their number one going forward, but former PPD Zagreb goalkeeper Ivan Stevanovic has decided to retire from the national team. With 39 goals, Zlatko Horvat was Croatia’s best scorer in the competition, and Vardar’s Igor Karacic had the most assists with 41.
Macedonia was placed in the same group as Croatia, but could not reach the Main Round. Gonzalez’s team beat Bahrain and Japan, but recorded losses against other opponents, Iceland, Spain and Croatia. We have seen some impressive moments from Macedonia, but it just wasn’t enough to compete with some of the best teams at the competition. After finishing fourth in the group, Macedonia played two more matches in the President’s Cup. First, Macedonia lost to Russia, and played for the 15thplace against Chile. Macedonians managed to defeat the South Americans after a tough battle and claimed the 15thplace. Kiril Lazarov (48 goals, 38 assists) and Dejan Manaskov (34 goals) remained the focal point of Macedonian game play, but some new younger players also emerged. Many new younger players were in this role for the first time, but the potential is definitely here. Filip Kuzmanovski (21 goals, 18 assists), Zarko Peshevski (24 goals), Filip Taleski, Mario Tankoski, Martin Serafimov and Martin Popovski are just some players who played big minutes at the World Championship and will be the players Macedonia has to build in the future. SEHA clubs Vardar and Metalurg will continue to produce talent, and that is certain.
Serbia finished the tournament in 18thplace. After missing the last two World Championships, they managed to come back to the big stage, so in a way it is a success in itself. Nenad Perunicic brought a very young squad to the tournament, as they were without some players who are usually always a part of the team. Momir Ilic, Zarko Sesum, Rastko Stojkovic, Petar Djordjic, Dobrivoje Markovic, Milan Jovanovic or Darko Djukic have not played this year, and it is all part of the process for Serbia. In addition to that, the group could not have been tougher for Serbia, as they lost to France, Germany and Brazil who made the Main Round, drew to Russia and beat Korea. Serbia finished 5thin that group and also competed at the President’s Cup. First, Serbia beat Bahrain and played for the 17thplace where they lost to Argentina. Overall, Nemanja Ilic and Bogdan Radivojevic were Serbia’s biggest aces with 52 goals combined. Steaua’s Stefan Vujic had a big impact with 19 goals and team-high 14 assists. Two SEHA goalkeepers also participated for Serbia, Vardar’s Dejan Milosavljev had 22 saves in 5 matches, while Vojvodina’s Svetislav Verkic recorded 16 stops in 4 matches played.
Russia had five SEHA players in the competition. Timur Dibirov was their best scorer with 35 goals. Alexander Shkurinskiy did well with 25 goals and 18 assists, and Dibirov’s club teammates were also good, Shishkarev scored 15 goals, while Kiselev and Kalarash had 9 each. Russia finished 14th.
Meshkov Brest’s head coach Manolo Cadenas led Argentina to 17thplace, where they beat Serbia in the final match.
Overall, SEHA – Gazprom League was represented with three countries, 18 outfield players, two goalkeepers and two coaches. SEHA players scored 252 goals, SEHA goalkeepers made 38 saves. Zlatko Horvat scored 39 goals which is the same tally as the best SEHA scorer at the 2017 World Championship, when Luka Cindric led the League’s scorers.