By Sports Reporter/Cairo, Egypt
Asian champions Qatar will face off with the South American champions Argentina today with a quarter-final spot at stake in the IHF World Handball Championships in Cairo, Egypt.
In the second group in the main round, Qatar had lost their opening match to world champions Denmark 23-32, but bounced back with a 28-23 victory over Bahrain on Saturday.
With Denmark already in the next round, three teams are locked in a battle for one available spot in the quarter-final. Qatar, with 4 points, will have to beat Argentina (6 points) for any chance of advancing and hope that Croatia (5 points) lose to Denmark. If Qatar beat Argentina by three or more goals today, a Croatia-Denmark draw will suffice too.
Al Annabi kicks off their match against Argentina at 8pm Doha time.
It won’t be an easy task given the high level of performance put on display by the Argentines, who, however, will be hoping to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. Qatar have already qualified twice for the next stage of the tournament — 2015 and 2017.
The last encounter of the two teams was in the international friendly tournament organized by the International Handball Federation, which was topped by European champions Spain, even as Qatar finished second, ahead of Argentina in third and Tunisia in fourth.
However, a main round World Championships confrontation will be a different ballgame with the pressures of what’s at stake only palpable.
Qatar does have the players for the task, including Frankis Marzo, who is the top-scorer in the tournament so far with 45 goals.
“Argentina is a fighting and fast team, we will try to win and do our best during the match,” Qatar coach Valero Rivera said on the eve of the all-important match.
“We played at a good level against Bahrain in the previous match, and we performed distinctly in defensive, offensive and at the level of goalkeeping, and I am proud of what the team did.
“The confrontation with Bahrain was complicated, and there is no doubt that fatigue appeared on the players, of course, especially during the first half, but we fought in the second half, and we hope to continue achieving victory during the decisive confrontation against Argentina.”
Qatar Handball Association President Ahmad al-Shaabi put his faith in the team. “The national team performed well during the World Championship despite the great difficulties it faced, especially the absences of many players due to injuries. Despite this, we succeeded in qualifying for the main round, and we now have a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals. This in itself is a success.”
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