Qatar finish second, qualify for Worlds

IT WAS a proverbial slip between the cup and lip as Qatar narrowly lost to South Korea (22-23) in the final of the 15th Asian Championship in Jeddah last Sunday.

Qatar thus missed a date with history as a win would have given them their maiden continental title. However, the second-place finish ensured them a berth at the 2013 World Championship in Spain behind South Korea. Saudi Arabia, who defeated Japan 25-20 in the bronze-medal game, also booked a berth at the biennial Worlds.

It was Qatar’s second Asian silver, after Isfahan, Iran, in ’02. They twice finished third, in Doha (’04) and Bangkok, Thailand (’06).

Qatar, coached by Serb Borut Macek, put up a convincing performance in the final. Yet, their rivals held a narrow edge throughout to clinch their ninth title.

Goalkeepers Mohsen Al Yafai and Yousef Al Maalem were in fine form and Qatar defended well. However, Korea’s Kyung Shin-Yoon (seven goals), Jae-Woo Lee (five) and Yi-Kyeong Jeong (four) took the game away from them.

At the other end, Mabrouk Hassan (nine) waged a lone battle as Wajdi Sinen and Basel Mousa Reyes (both three) went off-colour.

Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) Secretary General Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani congratulated the players.

“Qatar have been doing well in handball. We finished second at the Arab Games and now emerged as the second best in Asia. More importantly, we’ve qualified for the next two Worlds — in ’13 and ’15 (as hosts). This result will boost the game’s growth in our country,” said Sheikh Saoud.

Qatar had progressed through the tournament’s earlier rounds undefeated. They topped Group B with three wins against Uzbekistan (41-19), Bahrain (27-26) and the UAE (28-21) before drawing with Saudi Arabia 24-24. They beat Japan 33-27 in the semifinal.

Qatar Handball Association President Ahmed Mohammed Abdulrab Al Shaabi expressed happiness.

“The players did their best and I’m happy with their performances. They were a little unlucky in the final. I hope we can put up a better show at the Worlds in Spain,” he said.

For the record, Qatar finished 16th in Portugal (’03), 21st in Tunisia (’05) and 23rd in Germany (’07).