Junior (U21) Competition: Sunday 14 April
3/4 Placement/Bronze Medal Match: Paraguay vs United States of America (14:00hrs)
USA goalkeeper Rene Ingram provided a one-man wall in the first encounter between these teams two days ago in their group B encounter which saw his side run out comfortable 28:19 winners in the end, and the German-based shot-stopper will enjoy taking on the South Americans again as he looks to guide his side to a bronze medal.
“It’s pretty difficult for goalkeepers here in Kosovo because everyone has a different style,” he said. “The Paraguay goalkeepers have a different style to me because I am pretty tall, I’m more of static goalkeeper, doing positioning and then coming out big to take up all the space.”
He is complemented by the highest-scoring attack in the U21 competition – the USA have scored 95 times in three games – while Paraguay are at the opposite end of the scale, scoring just 51 times in the competition, to rank bottom.
Of those goals, 10 have been registered by Paraguay’s top-scorer Jose Fiore but him and his side will have to make a marked improvement in their shooting effectiveness to stand a chance of winning a medal, despite a tough defence which has conceded the second-fewest goals (47) in the competition, behind Kosovo (43).
Gold Medal match: Kosovo vs Chinese Taipei (18:00hrs)
The opening game for host nation Kosovo saw them defeat Chinese Taipei by eight (31:23) having led for the whole match and they come into their second meeting against the Asian side having beaten Paraguay in the semi-finals yesterday, 36:27.
The European side boast the best defence having conceded just 43 goals in three games but face a Taipei side who have scored 94 times in the same number of matches – nearly 30 more than their opponents.
“The match will be very hard because Kosovo team are a very strong team,” said Chinese Taipei coach Su Ta Chih. “But we will try our best and we believe that if we never give up we will win the game.”
“It’s fantastic to get to the final,” said Kosovo’s Drenit Tahirukaj, who is the top-scorer for his side, on 16 goals. “Since the beginning of this tournament we thought we would reach the final, but I still have a lot more to improve personally – I need more self-confidence with shooting, for example.
“We had a match against them already so we know all of their tactics but our fans who will be here are really important for us – they are the eighth player. Our squad is like our family – we have been together for five years, so we know what we do wrong and what we do good.”
While the crowd will no doubt be in favour of the home side, Chinese Taipei will be looking to cause a big upset today as they hope to grab the championship and a ticket to the 2019 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship in Spain in July.
Photo: Shpend Ahmeti/Kosovo Handball Federation