Five takeaways from the intense M18 events
The youth took centre stage during the various Men’s 18 tournaments, which ended last weekend. What are the conclusions after the M18 EHF EURO in Montenegro and the M18 EHF Championships in Israel, Latvia, and Romania?
Spain won the trophy with an immaculate balance, France disappointed, and Faroe Islands provided the top scorer and the MVP in an outstanding M18 EHF EURO 2022 tournament in Montenegro.
Ten exciting days in the Verde Complex and in the Moraca Sports Centre in Podgorica are now over, and so are the simultaneously played EHF Championships 2022.
Here are five takeaways after the four M18 events this month:
The ‘Invincible Armada’ strikes once again
One month ago, Spain used an amazing comeback in the final of the M20 EHF EURO 2022 to take the title against hosts Portugal. The feeling returned last weekend during the final of the M18 EHF EURO 2022, which also was sparked by a superb comeback in Spain’s final against Sweden.
However, this time around, Spain had thoroughly dominated their opponents on the way to the gold medal, sealing seven wins in seven games and scoring 34.2 goals on average, which brought them their second title on this level – 28 years after the first.
Backed by the senior men’s team coach, Jordi Ribera, who had also been in the stands for the M20 EHF EURO 2022, Spain had an outstanding tournament, scoring at least 29 goals in each game they played, with clear wins on their way to the trophy.
“The team has brought out that competitive gene, that character that it has shown throughout the tournament and has not lost face in the game despite the bad moments, because Sweden have made it difficult for us,” said Spain coach Javier Fernandez Jabato after the final against the Scandinavian side.
With this win, Spain became the first nation to hold the M18 and M20 EHF EURO titles at the same time in the 30-year history of the events.
Óli Mittun, top scorer and MVP
No player had ever before scored so many goals at an M18 EHF EURO like Faroe Islands’ Oli Mittun: the left back netted an incredible 80 times in seven matches in Montenegro over the last 10 days, an average of 11.4 goals per game.
It is pretty unusual the MVP in an tournament comes from a team that did not make the semi-finals, as Faroe Islands only finished ninth.
But Mittun’s performance could not be overlooked, as he really shone, two months after turning only 17.
Teaming up with another strong back in Elias Ellefsen á Skipagøtu, Mittun – who had already scored 28 goals at the M20 EHF EURO last month – is likely to become a staple in the Faroe’s men senior team in the future, which looks to have a lot of talent and firepower at their disposal.
Germany add another medal to their tally
Having already been assured of a medal after reaching the final, Spain and Sweden secured their seventh piece of silverware at the M18 EHF EURO, being tied on the third place in the all-time medal standings, with an identical record – two gold medals, two silver medals and three bronze medals.
The record at the M18 EHF EURO is still held by Denmark, who won 10 medals: three silver and seven bronze medals, but still no gold one.
Germany continued to dominate the medal standings at this age category, having secured the bronze this time with a 29:22 win against Hungary.
The M19 EHF EURO 2021 champions remain the only nation with three titles. In Montenegro, they had an up-and-down tournament. Boosted by All-star left wing David More, Germany lost their first match in the group phase against Hungary, bounced back, earned a four-game winning streak, before losing in the semi-final against Spain, before they Hungary again – and beat them this time.
Hot or not?
Who were hot and who were not at the M18 EHF EURO 2022? Apart from the obvious podium teams, Hungary bounced back in superb fashion to take their first semi-final berth since 2014 and their second in the last 24 years, with some great games from All-star left back Kirstof Csorgo and fellow left back Tamas Kovacs.
The Faroe Islands, who made their debut in the competition, also had an outstanding tournament and finished ninth, with four wins in seven matches, which included surprise wins over France and Serbia.
Norway also look set for a bright future, having finished the group phase with three wins in three matches (against Denmark, Slovenia, and Serbia) before they faltered in the main round and finished on the seventh place, due to the lack of depth and experience.
On the other hand, France disappointed with their 14th place, having won only two games in the entire competition, which means they will only compete at M20 EHF Championship level in 2024. Serbia (13th) and Slovenia (11th) also failed to live up to their billing.
Which teams qualified for which future event?
The M18 EHF EURO and the three simultaneous M18 EHF Championships were about more than winning titles and lifting trophies: qualification for upcoming YAC tournaments was also at stake:
- the teams ranked 1st-13th at the M18 EHF EURO 2022 have qualified for the M20 EHF EURO 2024: Spain, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Slovenia, Montenegro, Serbia;
- the winners of the three M18 EHF Championship 2022 tournaments have also qualified for the M20 EHF EURO 2024: Czech Republic, North Macedonia, and Austria;
- the teams ranked 14th-16th at the M18 EHF EURO 2022 have been relegated to the M20 EHF Championship 2024: France, Poland, Italy;
- Europe have 14 spots at the 2023 IHF Men’s Youth World Championship, alongside hosts Croatia:
- the top 11 of the M18 EHF EURO 2022: Spain, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Croatia (hosts), Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Slovenia, Montenegro;
- the three winners of the M18 EHF Championships 2022: Czech Republic, North Macedonia, and Austria