Historic World Championship Run Ends for MNT
by Kyle Clifton and Matthew Collins
The historic run by the USA Men's National Team at the 2023 IHF World Championships has officially come to an end, and what a run it was. After qualifying for the World Championships for the first time 22 years, the squad was determined to show the USA can compete against the best in the world.
A Group G win vs Morocco in the first match of the tournament ensured a main round berth for the Stars and Stripes. After falling to Egypt and Croatia, the USA slotted into Main Round Group IV.
The main round began for the USA Men’s National Team with a match against Bahrain in the Malmö Arena in Malmö, Sweden.
Bahrain started out with the opening score on a 7-meter shot, to which the US responded with a Ty Reed goal. A back-and-forth match in the opening 6 minutes before Bahrain went on an 8 to 1 run to bring their lead to 4-10 at the 16-minute mark.
The USA spent much of the first half clawing their way. The game went into the half with a 13-17 deficit for the USA.
The USA opened the half determined to eat away at the Bahrain lead. The USA cut the game to only 1 point off of an Alexandre Chan Blanco goal. Unfortunately, a 6 to 1 run by Bahrain put the game at 21-27 nearing the 51-minute mark. The USA could never fully recover but finished the game with 2 goals of their own by Samuel Hoddersen and Aboubakar Fofana.
Samuel Hoddersen led the USA in scoring with 6 goals followed closely by man of the match Alexandre Chan Blanco and Ian Hueter who each contributed 5.
The next match for the USA Men’s National Team would be their biggest challenge yet with back to back and eventual 2023 champions Denmark who entered the match as almost 20 goal favorites.
The USA came out ready to prove that they belonged in a match against the champions and Aboubakar Fofana opened the scoring for the match for the USA. Denmark would respond with 4 straight goals. From then on, goals were traded between both teams with a score of 10-14 at the 24 minute mark.
Denmark finished the half off strong with 4 straight goals to close out the final 6 minutes making the score 10-18.
The second half started like much of the first, with goals traded between teams. With the score at 11-20 at the 33-minute mark, the USA went on a 3 goal run to make the score 14-20 almost at the 37-minute mark. A few minutes later, Denmark went on a 3 run goal of their own.
After more goals traded between the teams, Denmark closed out the game with back-to-back goals to finish 24-33. The USA was led in scoring by Samuel Hoddersen again with 5 goals, followed by Patrick Hueter with 4, and Aboubakar Fofana, Alexandre Chan Blanco, and Ian Hueter each contributed 3.
The USA had one final match against Belgium to wrap up their historic run.
Alexandre Chan Blanco opened the game scoring for the USA. A few goals were traded to bring the game to 2-2 before America responded with 4 unanswered goals. Belgium would try to close the gap, but it wouldn’t be before the end of the half. The USA entered the half being up 14-12.
Belgium came out hot in the second half tying the game at 15-15 at the beginning of the 36-minute mark. The teams traded goals back and forth with Belgium having a 21-20 lead entering minute 54. Samuel Hoddersen and Alexandre Chan Blanco each contributed 2 goals apiece in the 4-goal run that put the USA up 24-21 with a minute and a half remaining.
Belgium was able to score only 1 more goal with Pal Merkovszky making a monumental save in the final minute on a Belgium 7-meter attempt to secure the man of the match and the win for the USA. Merkovszky finished with 13 saves for a 37% save rate.
Alexandre Chan Blanco finished the championships as the leading scorer for the United States with 22 goals, followed closely by Samuel Hoddersen scoring 21.
The USA finished the tournament ranked 20th, only 1 spot behind Argentina and 3 spots behind Brazil, both strong Pan American opponents. With this ranking, they proved that they belong with the best in the world.
Next up for the USA will be Pan American Games Qualification in early March against Canada, en route to a potential Paris 2024 Olympics spot.
MNT Results from 2023 IHF World Championship:
USA vs Morocco: USA wins 28-27
USA vs Croatia: Croatia wins 40-22
USA vs Egypt: Egypt Wins 35-16
USA vs Bahrain: Bahrain wins 32-27
USA vs Denmark: Denmark wins 33-24
USA vs Belgium: USA wins 24-22