By Sports Reporter/Borg El Arab, Egypt
Qatar goalkeeper Danijel Saric, who didn’t have a save in the first half, stopped a Japan penalty one minute before the final buzzer to lift Qatar past Japan 31-29 in the 27th Men’s Handball World Championship yesterday. The victory gave Qatar another two points in Group C and a ticket to the main round of the prestigious tournament.
Japan’s second match at the World Championship was close once again, this time against a familiar Qatar team. Almost exactly one year ago, the two sides met at the 2020 AHF Men’s Asian Championship in a game that looked eerily similar. Japan led at half-time by one goal but eventually lost.
Jin Watanabe gave himself a nice present for his birthday today scoring the first goal of the match. Neither Qatar nor Japan were able to pull away early as the lead changed hands five times in the first half.
The reigning champions of Asia, Qatar, began flawless in attack, recoding a 100 shot percentage in the first 18 minutes of the game. Player of the Match Frankis Marzo was unstoppable, scoring seven of his eleven goals in the first 30 minutes. He also added five assists.
The goalkeepers struggled in the first 30 minutes but that would change in the second half.
Marzo brought the score level at 16:16 right after break as a part of a five-goal Qatar run in the first five minutes. But, Japan responded with a tactical change, marking top scorer Marzo and in doing so halted the Qatar attack for eight minutes.
At 26:26 with eight minutes left, it was still anybody’s game. However, it was Mohamed Abidi’s time to shine between the posts as he saved three shots in a row. His partner Saric then saved a crucial penalty shot in the last minute, giving Qatar a 31:29 victory.
“We showed a big heart when we took the game in the last minutes. The Japanese team is a very different team now, as they are getting better and better and I’m just happy for the team,” said Abidi after the match.
Dagur Sigurdsson’s team know they made mistakes at the end of the match. “We finally got into our gear in the second half and played emotionally, but we made mistakes at the end and they were expensive as you can’t do mistakes at the end. We are growing and we have to concentrate on Angola now,” said the Japan coach after the match.
Japan will meet Angola in their last match of the preliminary round with a score to settle, losing to the African side 29:32 in 2019.
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