By Our Correspondent/Paris
Qatar face an uphill battle when they take on European champions Germany today for a spot in the quarter-finals of the World Handball Championship.
Runners-up in the event when it was held in Doha in early 2015, Qatar squeaked into the last 16 of this year’s event in France with just two wins – against Bahrain and Argentina in Group D.
But having suffered three defeats – against Egypt, Sweden and Denmark, they will have to play out of their skins against Germany in order to stay in the hunt for a medal.
The two sides met at the Rio Olympics last year when Germany raced to a 34-22 win in the last eight.
With first place in the group already secured, Denmark coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson used the Qatar match on Friday as an opportunity to rest his key players and gain experience for others. Mikkel Hansen, Niklas Landin and Henrik Toft Hansen all sat on the bench for the entire match, while Qatar coach Valero Rivera also started with an unusual choice, as Yousuf al-Abdulla stood in goal in place of Danijel Saric.
The match ended 32-29 in Denmark’s favour as the Olympic champions took an early lead and held a steady one to two-goal advantage until Qatar managed to equalise in the 10th minute off a goal from Abdulrazzaq Murad.
Saric came into goal to save a penalty off Jesper Noddesbo – another interesting choice from Gudmundsson as the line player is certainly not known for being Denmark’s primary shooter from the seven-metre line – and from there the game remained level until Qatar claimed their first lead at 11:10 thanks to left back Roine Bertrand in the 20th.
Despite Qatar moving ahead to a two-goal advantage, Gudmundsson showed his determination to gain experience for the younger members of his squad and did not make any significant changes. His team kept Qatar from increasing the lead to more than two goals, and with five minutes left in the half the difference stood at one in favour of the Asian champions. Jannick Green saved a penalty off Ahmad Madadi, but the 22-year-old left wing scored off the rebound and also added the last goal of the half to earn a two-goal advantage for Qatar before the buzzer.
Despite a third penalty save from Green early in the second half, Qatar took a more commanding lead and hit a 20:15 advantage eight minutes in. But Denmark slowly came chasing, steadily closing the gap to a two-goal deficit at 21:23 by the time the clock hit the 45-minute mark.
Less than five minutes later Niclas Kirkelokke equalised at 24:24, and as the final whistle drew near Gudmundsson experimented with seven-against-six featuring two line players. His team made it work, first reclaiming a one-goal advantage then moving further ahead. When Kirkelokke tallied his seventh goal at 100 per cent, he put Denmark in front by three, and the match was decided.
“I am happy with the way my team played today, especially in the first half. We had a good first half match, which allowed us to score at half-time,” said Qatar’s Spanish coach Valero Rivera.
“We have seen some good opposition. I also had to preserve some players. Even if everyone is OK, some of them had to take some rest. Now we will see what’s going to happen. We know that it will be a very complicated match against Germany.”
Denmark coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson also praised Qatar.
“Congratulations to the Qatar team, who played a great game. It was not an easy match for both teams, but it was a good handball game. It was important for me to give some players some rest, and to rely on the ones who haven’t played so much,” he said.
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