By Sports Reporter/Doha
The final of the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship will be played at the Lusail Multipurpose Arena in Doha today, and for the first time in the history of world handball, a non-European team will be fighting for the gold—hosts Qatar.
In all outdoor World Championship held so far, it is only the eighth time that the hosts are among the finalists—Germany (1938, 2007), Sweden (1954), France (2001) and Spain (2013) won the gold medals on home ground, while German Democratic Republic (1974) and Croatia (2009) finished with silver.
“We know that we have already made history. It is like a dream for us and we don’t want to wake up before Monday morning,” Qatar line player Borja Vidal said after his team had beaten Poland in Friday’s semi-final.
“We deserve to be in this final, even though many people had not expected us to come this far,” says left-back Bertrand Roine, who can make history today if Qatar take the gold medal.
Roine could win his second World Championship trophy after standing on top of the winners’ podium with France in 2011—it is that team and his country fellows he will face today at 19:15 hours.
It was the clear goal of the hosts to reach their best ever position at the World Championship, which would have meant proceeding to the eighth finals.
But their hunger was not stilled by that and after beating Austria, Germany (in the quarter-final) and now Poland the gate is open for gold.
“We don’t think about how it would feel to stand on the podium (on Sunday), we will just continue working hard and prepare for France,” says Vidal.
And the players know who to thank most: coach Valero Rivera. The Spaniard is receiving praise from all over the world. “What he has done with this team is simply incredible. He is a brilliant coach,” commented French top star Nikola Karabatic.
Rivera can become the first coach to lead two different teams to World Championship titles; he was coach of Spain two years ago. The only similar achievement was made by Croatian Vlado Stenzel, who led Yugoslavia to the Olympic gold medal in 1972 and West Germany to the World Championship title in 1978.
“Our biggest advantage is that we can prepare like a club team, not like a typical national team,” says Rivera, who is already the most successful coach in handball history by winning more than 70 titles and trophies with FC Barcelona including five consecutive Champions League titles.
Rivera’s contract with the Qatar Handball Association lasts until 2016—and he and his team already have their next target in sight—participating at the 2016 Olympic Games. If they win the final against France today, Qatar will have already booked the ticket to Rio. If they lose, they are the clear favourites for the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in October, which will be played in Doha.
“We have gone all the way and we are receiving great support from the fans, the federation and the whole country, so we can be proud of what we have achieved, but we will feel even more proud when we raise the trophy,” is the motto of Borja Vidal.
And Rivera will also have an eye on the bronze final. If Spain win this match, it will be the first time that a father (Valero Rivera senior) and his son (Valero Rivera junior) will win medals at the same event with different teams.
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