Qatar team celebrates the qualification for Rio Olympics with the trophy yesterday. PICTURES: Najeer Feroke


By Sports Reporter/Doha

Qatar made history when they swept all opposition and booked the only qualifying spot from Asia for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
In an entertaining clash, the Qatar side stormed to a 28-19 victory over Iran at the Losail Multipurpose Hall to win the Asian qualifying tournament in style and establish their credentials as genuine medal contenders.
Handball in Qatar has been on an upswing in recent years especially under coach Valero Rivera who guided the team to the Asian Games gold medal last year and the runners-up spot in the World Cup in early 2015.
Qatar had entered the final against Iran on the back of a convincing display throughout the tournament during which they had wins over Iran, Japan, Oman, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia in the group stage before dominating the next phase.
Qatar coach Rivera was delighted with the victory and credited the team’s success to hard work and team spirit.
“This was the last chance for Qatar to qualify for the Olympics and with only the winners of the Asian qualifying tournament going through to the Olympics next year,” Rivera said. “Therefore we couldn’t take any chances and prepared hard for the event.”
Preparations for the tournament had been intense with the team holding a three-month training camp before the event.
“Yes we prepared hard for the event and I congratulate the team. Their hard work has paid off but there is little time to relax as we want the team to be in great shape for the Olympics next August,” added Rivera.
In the final yesterday, Iran could cope with Qatar only in the early stages of the game when they matched goal for goal. At one stage the teams were tied 7-7 but soon Qatar pulled away to record what eventually was a comfortable win.
“We had beaten Iran in the group stage so were familiar with their style of play,” Rivera said.
Handball at the Olympics was first played in Berlin in 1936 when Germany won the gold medal.
After that the sport vanished from the Olympic fold before being reinstated at the Munich Games in 1972 which saw Yugoslavia take the gold.
European nations swept the gold medal in all subsequent editions, with France claiming two consecutive titles – in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London).
France booked their qualifying ticket when they beat Qatar in the World Championship in Doha, and with only 12 teams included in the Olympics draw, there could be a keen battle for gold between the two nations.

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