Qatar won the Asian Handball Championship for the fourth time in a row yesterday, beating South Korea in a one-sided final at the Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah Sports Complex in Kuwait.
Cheered on by hundreds of flag-waving Qatari fans who had flown to Kuwait to witness the final, Valero Rivera’s squad led for most part of the match to post a 33-21 victory and assert their supremacy yet again at the continental level.
Qatar were three-times defending champions going into the tournament, having swept all opposition since 2014 when they won the title for the first time, before repeating the feat in 2016, 2018 and winning the latest edition.
“This is a great occasion for Qatar. We were determined from the start and all the players put in an excellent performance,” Rivera said.
“We were unbeaten throughout and that speaks volumes about the quality of our players,” he added.
Qatar swept the group stage with wins over China and Japan before accounting for South Korea, Iran and Kuwait in the quarter-final league to qualify for the last-four stage where they beat Bahrain to make the final.
Qatar’s first task was to qualify for the World Championship and having achieved that objective by booking their spot in the semis at the Asian tournament, they were determined to go the distance.
It reflected in their play yesterday as they upped the tempo late in the first half after the teams were tied 10-all at the 25-minute mark.
In the next five minutes, Qatar swamped the South Korean defence to score four more goals to edge the first half 14-11.
The South Koreans were expected to put up a strong show in the second half but were thwarted by the fortress-like Qatar defence who foiled raid after raid, with goalkeeper Danijel Saric proving particularly effective.
The oldest man in the team at 42, Saric produced several saves to deny the South Koreans at crucial moments of the match, much to their frustration.
At the same time, Qatar’s forwards kept peppering the rival goal, taking a 21-14 lead after 10 minutes in the second half and effectively putting the match beyond South Korea’s reach. Qatar were soon 31-17 ahead but with time running short, the Koreans, who were aiming for their 10th continental title, had to be content with the second place.
Earlier yesterday, Japan edged out Bahrain by a scoreline of 27-26 in the bronze medal match. The top four teams have all qualified for the 2021 World Men’s Handball Championship, which is due to take place in Egypt from January 14-31 next year.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2022