Qatar coach Rivera wants the dream run to continue
January 29 2015 09:45 PM
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Qatar coach Valero Rivera.

By Yash Mudgal/Doha

When Qatar reached quarterfinals of the 24th Men’s World Handball Championship after a hard-fought victory over Austria their coach Valero Rivera said, “it is dream come true for us.”
Now, on the eve of their semifinals against an ‘experienced’ Poland side, Rivera wants the dream to continue for a couple more days.
“It is much more than ambition to reach the semifinals. It is like a dream come true for everybody who is involved with the national team of Qatar,” Rivera said yesterday.
“My challenge is the same as that of my players. For most people seeing Qatar playing for a medal would have looked like an illusion, but due to our hard work we made it a reality,” he said.
Qatar created history when they became the first Asian side to enter the last four after beating Germany 26-24.
To enter their first-ever final, the hosts need to overcome a Polish side, who have six players having taken part in the 2007 world championship final.
But they will have the support of a capacity crowd cheering for the home side at the Losail Multipurpose Hall.
“Poland is a very strong team and had the opportunity to prove it in an impressive way here, especially in the knock-out stage. Although they have not won a medal since the 2009 world championship, it is a great team. I have a lot of respect for Poland and I don’t consider their success as a surprise,” Rivera said.
“We worked hard to reach the last-four stage and I am not talking only about the games we have played here. It has been a long journey to the top four including the preparation, the friendly games and the whole effort of building a competitive team that might be a medal contender at Qatar 2015. We played tough games, including the one against Belarus and regardless of the results, our team is still learning how to play the big games and beat great opponents,” the Spaniard said.
Poland defeated Croatia 24-22 in quarter-final and is also a surprise semifinalist like the hosts and earned their rival coach’s admiration.
“They are good in every position and every aspect. We have to keep our concentration for sixty minutes and not allow them to find their tempo. There is not a specific issue that we have to pay attention to. In a game like that, everything has to be taken under consideration, especially the small details which are always decisive,” Rivera said.
Once again Qatar will depend on its big game players — Zarko Markovic, Rafael Capote, Danijel Saric and Borja Vidal, who dominated and helped the hosts into the last four.  
“We prefer to go step by step. First, we have to give everything we have left to our tank in the semi-final against a very experienced team,” said Markovic, who is now the tournament’s top scorer with 55 goals.
Polish coach Michael Biegler expects equal chances for both teams as he said: “I see it as a surprise that Qatar have reached the semi-finals, but it is just as big a surprise that we have got that far, I think. Our semi-final against the hosts will be decided in defence and by the goalkeepers.”

CLASH OF TITANS

The second finalist will be decided in a ‘clash of handball titans’. France will play their tenth world championship semi-final in history while Spain are looking to earn the right to defend their title.

“We are sure we have a chance against Spain,” French coach Claude Onesta said. His team defeated Spain one year ago in the semi-final of the European Championship in Denmark to later take the gold. He has the greatest respect for his opponents.  

“Spain is a world class team with players of the highest calibre. We are totally prepared to deal with it. Playing against Spain is a great moment for us.”

His counterpart, Spanish coach Manuel Cadenas, hopes to enjoy another great moment with his team after winning European bronze in 2014 in this, his first big event as successor to Valero Rivera. “We are the only team that won all seven previous matches. Though it will be hard - why should we not manage to beat France?”


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