Cuba have become the first non-European nation to win the IHF Emerging Nations Championships, with victory over Cyprus in Bulgaria  ©IHF

Cuba have beaten Cyprus 28-18 to win the International Handball Federation Men’s Emerging Nations Championships in Varna in Bulgaria.

Cuba are the first non-European nation to win the trophy and made up for the disappointment of defeat in the final four years ago in their only previous appearance.

Cyprus had made an excellent start to the gold medal match and led 4-2 at the Palace of Culture and Sport thanks to goals from their leading scorer Alexandros Charalambous and Loukas Paraskevas.

Cuba then seized the initiative with Hanser Rodriguez Rodriguez and Ronaldo Almeida Duquezne combining to score four without reply to take a 14-9 advantage into the half-time interval.

They drew away further in the second half, Duquezne taking his personal tally for the match to eight.

Cuba completed a 28-18 victory and Duquezne was named man of the match at the end of a tournament in which he scored 20 goals. 

All but one of the Cuban outfield players contributed to the scoring in the final in a fine team effort.

With 27 goals, Cuba's Hansa Rodriguez Rodriguez was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament ©IHF
With 27 goals, Cuba's Hansa Rodriguez Rodriguez was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament ©IHF

Cuba had beaten Great Britain and Guatemala in the group stages to reach the knockout phase unbeaten.

In the last four, they defeated host nation Bulgaria 36-29 with nine goals from Rodriguez Rodriguez to reach their second consecutive IHF Emerging Nations Final. 

At the last tournament in Tbilisi four years ago, Cuba had been beaten 31-21 by the hosts Georgia. 

In their group matches, Cyprus had beaten Moldova, Australia and then India 42-37 in the semi finals to reach the final but had no answer to the Cubans in the final.

In the third place playoff match, Bulgaria beat India 47-18 to win their second consecutive bronze medal in the tournament.

Cuba’s Rodriguez Rodriguez, their leading scorer with 27 goal, was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) and selected for the tournament All Star team alongside fellow compatriot Lidier Vergara Martinez, who was named leading defender.

Beaten finalists Cyprus provided Charalambous and Georgios Kritikos for the All Star line-up.