By Yash Mudgal/ Doha
The Qatar juggernaut kept rolling in the men’s handball competition of the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games Qatar 2019 as the hosts remained unbeaten at the end of the qualification round yesterday.
At the Gharafa Complex, five-time Asian Champions Qatar defeated 2017 European bronze winners Spain 2-0 (16-14, 20-10) in straight sets to make it five-from-five on the third of the competition.
Qatar’s coach Khaled Hassan is ready to take on the ‘tough’ Australians in the quarter-finals, after the Aussies stunned USA 2-1 (30-26, 28-18, 9-8) in sudden death in their last group match to finish fourth.
“We’re proud to finish on the top of Pool B, which was quite a difficult task since we had four-time world finalists Croatia and Hungary. The players put in their best and we were at the top of the group,” a delighted Hassan said.
Spain kept the hosts at least two points away from them throughout in the opening set, but in the dying moments defender Mutasem Mohamed tied the scores and right winger Hand Kakhi struck a fine goal to put Qatar 1-0 ahead. Kakhi kept the the momentum going in the second sets as he struck four goals inn Qatar’s easy win.
Hassan’s focus is now on the match against Australia in the quarterfinals today evening.
“Still we’ve a long way to go. My players are a bit tired after a difficult group phase. No our focus is on the quarter-final against Australia, who look a tough side. They upset the USA and we’ll have to be wary of them,” he said.
In a tight encounter in the morning session Australia won in sudden death after five goals each in the shootout to secure the fourth spot in Group A.
“We just kept powering through, the boys knew what to do. We just knew we were going to have it in the penalties. We just knew it,” said Lucas Turecek, who scored the winning goal for Australia.
“No-one wants to go to the shootouts. If they score they score. We just kept powering through, the boys knew what to do. We just knew we were going to have it in the penalties. We just knew it.”
Talking about last eight stage match against Qatar, Turecek sounded positive.
“I’m really excited to take on Qatar, they’re a good team. We’ll be on centre court, and if we can play like we did in the first-half, it’s gonna be awesome,” said Turecek.
“We’re gonna take all the positives to the next game against Qatar and do our best. We’re just a huge-hearted team, and we’re just gonna go for it.”
Qatar’s Kamal Aldin Mallash, a regular national team player in conventional handball, is enjoying his time on the sand.
“I’m playing beach handball for the first time and I’m finding it interesting. We have a good coach, who has shaped the team well. We have enjoyed our outings during the pool matches. We secured the top position, which is going to motivate us a lot. We’ll continue to push ourselves and try to do Qatar proud in the knock-out stage,” he said.
Hungary also clinched the last available spot from Group B with a win over Croatia.
European champions Denmark defeated Oman 2-0 to finished top of their group with five wins from five matches. Tunisia defeated Uruguay 2-1 (12-16, 14-12, 7-6) in their last group match.
In women’s section, Poland prevailed over Asian champions China 22-20, 21-13 dominating the second set after a thrilling first to enter quarters.
“Beach handball is a very fast game. China was a tough opponent, and they play different handball from us. Their passes are very fast. Their defence is very fast compared to European teams. But we had faith, and today we are lucky,” Poland’s specialist Paula Mazurek said.
Poland, who won a silver medal at the European Beach Handball Championships in Croatia in 2017, face a tough draw against Brazil in their first quarter-final match. The Poles were a late addition to the competition after the current highest ranked European women team Norway decided not to send a team.
European champions Danish women had a bad start but three wins sees them sitting in third spot, behind the dominant Brazilian unbeaten at the top of Group A.
The semi-finals will take place tomorrow evening at Gharafa complex while the match for third placed final will take place on Wednesday at Katara.
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