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Greece

Croatia’s Men & Germany’s Women Take 2022 IHF Beach Handball Championships

July 14, 2022
By Phil Butler

CRETE – From June 21-26, 2,000 of the world’s finest handball athletes were on Crete, Greece’s biggest island, vying for gold at the 2022 International Handball Federation (IHF) Beach Handball World Championships. On June 26, stars like Croatia’s Lucien Bura, and Germany’s Isabel Kattner left everything on the sand of Karteros Beach, and no question unanswered. Here’s the wrap-up.

Croatia Shines in Men’s Final

In the men’s final on Sunday, all-star studded Croatia and Denmark took center stage in a power handball tutorial conducted by Lucien Bura and his Croatian teammates. European champions Denmark kept the contest close, but the slugfest ended 2-0 (24-22, 21-18) in Croatia’s favor. The finale of the 10th edition of these championships did not disappoint, in a reboot of this tournament in the wake of a hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.

Ironically, it was defense in an offensive spectacle that put Croatia ahead. Excellent play by goalkeeper Dominik Markovic in the net helped clinch the shutout for his team. Croatia’s 70% overall shot efficiency versus Denmark’s 62% seemed like a foregone conclusion given Bura’s and his teammate Nikola Finek’s scoring prowess. This was Croatia’s fourth appearance in a world championship final and their third gold-winning performance.

In the men’s bronze medal match, hosts Greece lost a hard-fought battle to a powerful Brazil squad 0-2 (15-18, 18-24). The Greek squad, powered by the scoring of Greece’s Georgios Eleftheriadis, and Spain’s Gil Pires joined champion Croatia’s Lucian Bura, and the Denmark trio- Simon Jensen, Martin Andersen, and Jeppe Villumsen- on the tournament’s all-star team.

Hassan Moustafa, President of the International Handball Federation, awards Germany’s women the gold at the 2022 IHF Beach Handball World Championships in Crete. Photo: IHF

Germany Defeats Spain 2-0

In a closely contested women’s gold medal final, Patricia Conejero Galan and her Spain teammates fell to a well-disciplined German team and a flurry of scoring by Michelle Schäfer 0-2 (14-15, 20-22). The Spain women almost pulled out set one, but the Germans held on to win the first half 15-14. Schäfer closed the second half for Germany with a 6 meter goal. Consistency won it for the experienced German team, as the fates seemed to ruin several key Spain efforts.

The finals match was almost predictable compared to the real shocker of the tournament, when the heavily favored Greek women lost an unimaginable semi-final match to Spain. In that contest, the defending world champions could not buy a score for an entire half. The Hellenic women who had performed flawlessly throughout the tournament, could only put four points on the scoreboard for an entire half against the Spaniards. The second highest-scoring squad in the tournament seemed to have been cursed by Zeus or Minoan monsters. The sight of the team’s head coach Maria Karantoni sitting in disbelief in the stands after the match was a poignant reminder that perfection can be so easily thwarted. She told reporters that the scoring debacle was the worst in the team’s history.

As if ordained to lose in the last two days of the tournament, host Greece was once again forced into fourth place in the bronze medal match, losing another heartbreaker to the Netherlands women in a shootout 1-2 (22-23, 19-16, 8-9).

A bright spot for Spain came with the all-star selections as Asuncion Batista (MVP) and Patricia Encinas Guardado filled two of the spots. Team USA’s amazing Christine Mansour led all scorers (164 and 81%), and joined Germany’s Amelie Möllmann, Lucila Candela Balsas of Argentina, Rianne Mol of Netherlands, and talented Ntafini Dimitri of Greece on the stellar squad.

More IHF Beach Handball

The week prior’s 2022 IHF Youth Beach Handball World Championship ended up with Croatia’s men and Spain’s women edging past many fine competitors from around the world. The two shootouts that decided the winners in this side, set the tone for an IHF Beach Handball World Championships thousands of competitors and spectators will always remember.

From a spectator’s point of view, these games were a fantastic experience for several reasons. First of all, the Hellenic Handball Federation (OXE) did a magnificent job of organizing. With the help of the IHF, the Region of Crete, and sponsors like Hummel Sportswear, Sportfive, and Renault, the venue and the environment of the championships were splendid.

Finally, in other IHF news, the federation has announced that the IHF Beach Handball Global Tour will now visit Poland for its first-ever stage. On July 1-2, the city of Gdansk in Poland will host the debut of the event, which will feature the four men’s and women’s national teams of host nation Poland along with Germany, Spain, and Croatia.

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