By Our Correspondent/Suwon, South Korea
Qatar inched closer to a third straight Asian handball title yesterday and in the process also qualified for the World Men’s Handball Championship to be held in Denmark and Germany in January next year.
In yet another impressive display at the Asian Championship being played in Suwon, South Korea, Qatar breezed past Bahrain 29-21 in Group 2 of the main round to remain unbeaten in five matches so far in the tournament
“Qualifying for the World Championship was our first strategic goal at the Asian Championship and having achieved that we can concentrate fully on winning the title here,” Qatar coach Valero Rivera told journalists after the match against Bahrain.
“The boys once again were exceptional and I couldn’t be more pleased. It was a great team effort and the fact that we won five matches in a row gives me no reason to complain,” the Spaniard added.
Rivera refused to criticise the umpiring after some decision went against Qatar.
“I don’t want to get into that. Fact is that we won and our tactics paid off. I am very happy with this victory and would like to thank my players for their performance.”
Asked who he would like to meet in the semis, Rivera said he believed in giving his best no matter who the opposition is.
“We play each match as it comes. We don’t really worry about who our opponents are.”
Qatar Handball Association President Ahmed al-Shabbi also praised the team’s show.
“I congratulate the players, the technical and coaching staff for the fine display of the players,” said al-Shaabi.
“They showed great fighting spirit against Bahrain and eventually emerged winners convincingly,” he added.
Qatar, who beat Japan on Monday, were tested by Bahrain in the first half during which both teams struggled to gain the upper hand although the defending champions just about managed to take a 13-11 lead, thanks to three successful penalties converted by Bertrand Roine.
Bahrain, however, quickly equalised as the second half began but Qatar hit back with vengeance to assert their supremacy as they took a four-point lead (20-16) for the first time in the match.
Kamalaldin Mallash, Youssef Ben Ali and Ahmad Madadi then scored crucial goals to increase the gap to eight (26-18) to virtually seal the outcome of the match.
Youssef Ben Ali was declared the Most Valuable Player of the match for his fine show in both offence and defence.
Qatar star Madadi exuded confidence that the team will go on and win the title.
“Qualifying for the World Cup was our first goal in the tournament and thankfully we achieved it. It was well-deserved but now we must stay focused and win the Asian title,” said Madadi.
On Qatar’s match against the UAE today, Madadi said: “We enter each game with victory in mind. We don’t care who the opposition is.”
A win against UAE will help Qatar top Group 2 earning them a meeting with the second-placed team in Group 1.
It would also mean a clean sweep over the siege nations, as Qatar had beaten Saudi Arabia in the
Preliminary rounds earlier in the tournament.
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