Bravo Qatar!! Their dream run continued much to the delight of the home fans, who cheered the Qatari hand-ballers all the way. On Friday, they made history to become the first ever non-European nation to reach the final of Men’s Handball World Championship. Their best finish so far, has been the 16th place in Portugal, where the 2003 Men’s Handball World Championship was held. In one of the most thrilling finishes of this year’s tournament, Qatar got the better of Poland in the dying moments of the match. Now the hosts have only France to contend with in Sunday’s final. In the other semifinal, France, who won the championship in 2011, beat defending champions Spain 26-22. The French victory was led by their amazing goalkeeper, Thierry Omeyer, who affected 20 saves out of 42 shots made on him. In the play-offs for 5th to 8th places, Croatia and Denmark sealed their places for Olympic Qualification Tournaments to be held in April this year. For the last remaining spot in Olympic qualifications, Slovenia and Germany will face each other on Saturday.
In the first match on Friday between Poland and Qatar at the Lusail Arena, the Poles began with mounting the early charge and established the lead. But the hosts bounced back with the Qatari goalkeeper Danijel Saric standing like a rock and thwarting further Polish attack. While the Bosnian born Saric was largely responsible for turning the game around, home-bred star Kamalaldin Marrash scored 6 goals from 6 attempts. At the start of the second half, Qatar had built a healthy 5-goal lead over their opponents. In all, the brilliant Saric made 15 saves. Cheered by the 15,000 raucous home fans, hosts continued their fantastic run after disposing off Germany in the quarters. Cuban-born Rafael Capote netted six in the first half while another Bosnian native Zarko Markovic, who was granted the Qatari citizenship sometime back, also scored 5 goals. Incidentally, Markovic is the tournament’s top-scorer with 60 goals so far. For Poland, Michal Jurecki scored nine goals but couldn’t prevent the defeat of his team. Qatar’s Spanish coach Valero Rivera, who guided his own country to the 2013 title on home soil, was delighted with the 31-29 victory of the home side since the result showed the fruits of his labor.
In the other semifinal, four-time world champions France defeated defending champions Spain 26-22. The Spaniards were the tough and France had to dig deep into their last resources. The French defense was vastly fortified by their gallant goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, who saved 58 percent of all Spanish shots. France’s star player Matthieu Grebille could not play due to a shoulder injury but Guigou, Canellas and Ugalde scored five goals each. France led 18-14 at halftime but Spain mounted pressure after the break to cut the deficit to 2 points at one stage and almost managed a turnaround but they missed some crucial chances in the final stages.
There were two other games involving the losing quarterfinalists for 5th to 8th places. These matches were crucial from the viewpoint of ensuring places for the qualifying rounds of 2016 Rio Olympics. In the first match, Croatia beat Germany 28-23 and in the other Denmark defeated Slovenia 36-33. By virtue of these victories, Croatia and Denmark have ensured their berths for Olympic Qualification Tournaments, which have been scheduled to be held in April 2015. For the remaining spot, Germany and Slovenia will take on each other on Saturday and the winner will also ensure the place in the qualification matches.