Handball World ChampionshipOn Sunday, France made handball history by emerging as the first team ever to win the world championship title for the fifth time. In the final played at Doha’s jam-packed Lusail Multipurpose Hall, France broke many a Qatari hearts with their 25-22 victory over the host nation, who had earlier shocked handball enthusiasts by entering the final. For the first time in the tournament, Qatar found themselves at the receiving end with France getting the better of the hosts. In the build-up to the tournament, the government of Qatar had taken a bold step by granting citizenships to a number of foreign-born players, who constituted the Qatari squad. The hosts dished out a great performance in various stages of the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship but they couldn’t cross the final hurdle on Sunday night. The victory means; France now holds the World, European and Olympic championships, which is an ample testimony of their dominant stature in world handball. The newly formed cosmopolitan Qatar team, however, emerged as the first non-European nation to enter the final of the world championship. The French victory also brings along an automatic ticket for their nation in the 2016 Rio Olympics and they become the first nation to register their entry in the Olympic handball event. Brazil will qualify anyway on account of their host nation status. Winning the final on Sunday was an extraordinary achievement for Coach Claude Onesta and his players and it comes on the heels of the European gold medal at Herning and the Olympic gold in the 2012 London Games.

The one player, who stood out in the final between France and Qatar was Serbian-born Nikola Karabatic, whose dominance in the 60-minute game proved to be a crucial factor. Karabatic was brilliant in scoring all his five goals in the first half and his playmaking abilities came to fore in numerous assists in the second half. Along with his equally talented team-mate Daniel Narcisse, Karabatic led France in outplaying the host nation to the disappointment of fans in the Lusail Arena. The versatile playmaker scored all his five goals in the first half and dished out several key assists in the second. France planned their defensive strategies very well and effectively blocked Qatar’s two most dangerous shooters; Zarko Markovic and Rafael Capote. The two Qatari top scorers of the tournament could score just once until the 17th minute as France pulled away to a 9-5 lead. The mercurial Karbatic and Narcisse together created a 13-7 lead by the 23rd minute and the French domination became evident as the clock ticked by. But in the last six minutes of the first half, Qatar cut the deficit down to 14-11 as four goals were scored by Markovic and Capote. In addition, the Qatari goalkeeper, Danijel Saric also affected some brilliant saves.

Egged on by 17000 home fans, Qatar produced a rollicking performance in the first 10 minutes of the second half and by 40th minute, the French lead was further reduced as the score stood at 18-17. However, that was the closest Qatar came to France. In the 46th minute, Kamaladin Mallash missed a great chance to level but experienced French goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer denied the Qatari by another great save. In 51st minute, Qatar’s coach called for the time-out with the score at 22-19. In the 56th minute, it was the French coach, who asked for timeout. With four minutes still remaining, the score read 24-21. As the match headed to the finish, Qatar got unlucky yet again, when Abdulla Al-Karbi missed two scoring chances. On the contrary, Narcisse netted his fourth goal just before the buzzer sounded and France became the world champions. Once again, Markovic ended as top scorer with 7 goals and Capote added another 6. Qatari goalkeeper Saric made 14 saves for the hosts. For his superlative show all through, French goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer was chosen as the player of the tournament.

In the bronze medal match played earlier, Poland scored a dramatic 29-28 victory over defending champions Spain. For Poland, Michal Szyba came up with 8 goals and Kamil Syprzak scored the winner with 30 seconds left. Germany beat Slovenia 30-27 to earn the right to play the qualifying rounds in April 2015.