Canada upset host nation Kosovo with a convincing four-goal win to finish top of group B and set-up a semi-final tomorrow against Nigeria, who secured second spot in group A with a comfortable victory over Paraguay.
Group A: Nigeria vs Paraguay 31:18 (18:7)
Nigeria confirmed their place in the semi-finals with a clear victory over Paraguay as the third day of the 2018/19 IHF Men’s Trophy Intercontinental Phase got underway in Pristina, Kosovo.
Faruk Yusuf, Akeem Damilare Salami and Ibrahim Dikko all scored seven goals each to ensure their squad could full rotate ahead of their crucial match against either Canada or Kosovo – the winners of group B who would be playing later.
The game was a slow burner with just four goals in the first 10 minutes, but Nigeria found their speed and opened up a four-goal lead five minutes later (8:4) before a double-digit lead was reached just before the break (16:6 – 28th minute).
The result was in stark contrast to the defeat against Canada yesterday when the side from west Africa had lost heavily but for Dikko, the reason why was simple.
“Today we showed what we can do,” said the Lagos centre back who arrived with his team on the morning of that match against their North American counterparts.
“Yesterday we were very tired because of our journey and had to play a game, but today we were ready. We knew we were better than that and proved it – we are here to win the trophy.”
Group B: Canada vs Kosovo 35:31 (16:9)
Both teams went into the final clash of group B knowing a win would mean the group title and a clash against the second place team from group A, Nigeria, while the losers would play Chinese Taipei and it was Canada who set the pace early, going 3:0 before the fifth minute with a pair of strikes from Zachary Ouallouche and an opening goal from Caleb Baranyk.
In fact, Ludovic Roucoulet’s side dominated the first 10 minutes, going 7:2 up and nearly ending the game as a contest already – which appeared to be the case at the half-time break when they went in 16:9 up.
But home side Kosovo were not going to let Canada celebrate too early and brought the game within four (19:15) in the 38th minute. However, led by Mamadu Guennady Barri, pulling the strings in the middle of the court, Canada would not let their opponents get any closer for the remained of the game and eased to victory.
“I feel great,” said Canada’s Mamadu Guennady Barri. “It was a great team win and everybody scored. I was kind of worried near the end because they got the ball and scored really quickly, but I still knew we would get the win.”