GEORGIA POWER TO FIRST EMERGING NATIONS TROPHY

Georgia finished their home IHF Emerging Nations Championship with clean sweep of only wins on their path to the trophy, following a commanding victory in the final versus Cuba on Sunday night in Tbilisi Sports Palace. After a level first quarter Georgia began to create an advantage, and they controlled the second half completely to record a 10-goal victory at the final whistle.

It is Georgia’s first Emerging Nations title after Faroe Islands won in 2015 and 2017.

For debutants Cuba, the final loss is obviously disappointing, but the Pan American side nevertheless had an impressive campaign on their maiden participation in the tournament. The defeat in the final was their first loss at Georgia 2019.

FINAL
Cuba vs Georgia 21:31 (10:14)

18 saves from goalkeeper Shota Tevzadze and a fast-paced attacking game were the keys to Georgia’s victory in the final. Cuba kept pace through the first 25 minutes before Georgia grabbed the momentum and rode it all the way to the buzzer, with little doubt they would take the title long before the end of the match.

Cuba’s defence through most of the game was a solid 5-1, marking out Irakli Chikovani and keeping the important centre back quiet – but right back Giorgi Tskhovrebadze proved more than capable of taking charge in attack and contributed eight goals to the victory. Alongside Tskhovrebadze, wing Khazein Rustamov and line player Erekle Arsenashvili combined for a total of 12 goals.

In goal, Cuba’s Magnol Suarez Fiss, who was so impressive in the semi-final and was a crucial part of his team’s qualification for the trophy match, was far below his best. Goalkeepers are critical in title-deciding matches, and with Suarez’s limited impact, Cuba could not prevent Georgia clearly outscoring them. Meanwhile, Tevzadze caused Cuba’s shooters significant frustration.

The game was level through the opening minutes before Georgia opened a 9:6 lead at the 20-minute mark, but a 4:1 run from Cuba saw the Pan American side equalise then take the advantage, 10:9, five minutes later.

It seemed an exciting equal contest could be expected – however, Georgia had a much stronger finish to the half and pulled ahead by a critical four goals for the break. At that point, Tskhovrebadze counted five goals to his name to be the clear top scorer of the first 30 minutes.

When the match resumed, Georgia wasted no time pulling ahead – and the second half belonged entirely to the hosts.

Tevzadze saved a penalty in the 35th minute, when his team had already created a more significant advantage than that which stood at half-time, 17:11. By the 45th minute, the hosts had increased the gap further, to 22:15, and the vocal crowd’s delight was clear. In such an atmosphere, it was difficult for Cuba to fight back but they pushed hard to the whistle nevertheless. However, with the score at 27:20 in the 55th minute, there was no question that the trophy would be staying in Georgia.