Great Britain vs. Kosovo, 13th January 2024, Derby Arena
In what was hailed as the biggest handball match on home soil since the London 2012 Olympics, Great Britain faced off against Kosovo at Derby Arena in a thrilling encounter that captivated a sell-out crowd of 1238 people. The stakes were high as this match marked the first qualification phase for both teams in their quest to reach Euro 2026.
The atmosphere in the arena was electric as fans witnessed a historic clash, with Great Britain aiming for a significant win to secure their place in the next round. The stage was set for an intense battle, and both teams did not disappoint.
The first half highlighted the talent of the home team, with notable performances from key players. Reuben Wardle, a former GBu18 and u20 player and one of the youngest in the squad, demonstrated his prowess by scoring 4 crucial goals. Joshua Plumridge, a homegrown talent from Nottingham, matched Wardle’s scoring with 4 goals of his own. Goalkeeper Kylian Ferrier played a pivotal role in the defence, making an impressive 12 saves from 36 shots.
Kosovo, however, had their own standout performers. Valon Dedaj emerged as a key player for the visitors, scoring an impressive 8 goals. His ability to control the game and score crucial goals in key stages proved instrumental for Kosovo. Goalkeeper Haris Berisha showcased his skills with a 43% save rate, proving to be a formidable force in denying Great Britain’s attempts.
As the second half unfolded, the game remained closely contested. However, a crucial spell saw Kosovo weather the storm and extend their lead to 19:20. Great Britain fought hard, but the deficit proved too much to overcome. In the end, Kosovo emerged victorious, securing the win they needed to advance in the qualification phase.
Although Great Britain fell short of the 9-goal margin required for qualification, the team made a tremendous showing for themselves. The sell-out crowd was electric and ecstatic throughout the match, reflecting the rising popularity of handball in the UK. Despite the loss, the performance of the home team marked a significant step forward for British handball, leaving fans hopeful for future successes on the international stage.
In the aftermath of the thrilling handball encounter between Great Britain and Kosovo at Derby Arena, coach Ricardo Vasconcelos shared his thoughts on the match and the future trajectory of the British handball team.
“Amazing to have so many people at the venue and supporting the team; we, of course, are always aiming for more,” expressed Vasconcelos, acknowledging the enthusiastic sell-out crowd of 1238 people that created an electric atmosphere within the arena.
“I am immensely proud of the boys, and we are definitely going in the right direction,” continued Vasconcelos. The coach’s pride was evident in the performance displayed by the team, displaying their determination and skill on the court. Despite falling short in this match, Vasconcelos expressed optimism about the team’s overall progress.
“With a bit more time, we are in a place to catch those teams we are chasing,” Vasconcelos stated highlighting the long-term vision and growth plan for British handball. The coach’s words reflect a commitment to development and improvement, indicating that this match was just one step in a larger journey for the team epitomised by Sebestian Edgar a now veteran of the team and last playing member of the team that competed at the London 2012 Olympics.
As Great Britain continues its pursuit of excellence in handball, Vasconcelos’ sentiments underscore the dedication and belief within the team, leaving fans excited for the promising future of British handball on the international stage.
See the full match report and player stats here.