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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Qatar favourites in Olympics qualifiers at home

Tokyo 2020 the goal as Qatar take on Hong Kong, India and Saudi Arabia in Group A of the eight-team tournament.
Qatar’s Kamaleldin Mallash Attempts To Score Against Iran During Their Friendly Match
Qatar’s Kamaleldin Mallash attempts to score against Iran during a friendly match. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Blessed with a strong team and possessing an intimidating record, Qatar will start as firm favourites when the Asian handball qualification tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games begin at the Duhail Indoor Hall on Thursday.

Qatar are the winners of five continental competitions in the last six years, including two Asian Games gold medals (2014 and ’18) and three Asian titles (’14, ’16 and ’18). They had won the Olympic qualifying event at home in ’15 to make the cut for the ’16 Rio Games, where they lost to Germany in the quarterfinal.

GROUPS

GROUP AGROUP B
QatarBahrain
Saudi ArabiaSouth Korea
IndiaIran
Hong KongKuwait

SCHEDULE

Thursday, October 17Saudi Arabia vs India4pm
Qatar vs Hong Kong6.30pm
Friday, October 18South Korea vs Iran4pm
Bahrain vs Kuwait6pm
Saturday, October 19Hong Kong vs Saudi Arabia4pm
India vs Qatar6pm
Sunday, October 20Kuwait vs South Korea4pm
Iran vs Bahrain6pm
Monday, October 21India vs Hong Kong4pm
Qatar vs Saudi Arabia6pm
Tuesday, October 22Bahrain vs South Korea4pm
Iran vs Kuwait6pm
Wednesday, October 23REST DAY
Thursday, October 24MAIN ROUND
3A vs 4B12pm
3B vs 4A2pm
1A vs 2B4pm
1B vs 2A6pm
  
Friday, October 25Seventh place match4pm
Fifth place match6pm
Saturday, October 26Bronze medal match4pm
Gold medal match6pm
All games at Qatar Handball Association Indoor Hall at Al Duhail.

Qatar will start their Group A campaign against Hong Kong on Thursday, before playing India on Saturday (October 19) and Saudi Arabia on Monday (October 21). Group B comprises Bahrain, South Korea, Iran and Kuwait.

After the round-robin group matches, the top two teams in each group will progress to the main round on October 24. While the third and fourth-placed team in each group will vie for positions five to eight, the top two in Group A and B will face off for the first four ranks.

While matches for fifth-sixth and seventh-eighth places are on October 25, the bronze and gold medal games will take place a day later. Only the continental winner will progress to Tokyo.

The national team had begun preparations for the event on July 27. They trained at Club La Santa, in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, for ten days and recently played four friendly matches at home. They defeated Duhail (29-20), Qatar’s national beach handball side (32-26) and Iran twice (36-18 and 29-17).

Qatar’s Spanish coach Valero Rivera said his side was ready for the challenge ahead.

“The players showed great class against Iran in the friendlies, and I’m happy with how they’ve shaped up. It’s an important time for the team, and the players have responded well,” the coach, who led the country to a silver medal at the ’15 IHF World Championship, told Inside Qatar.

In their group, Qatar have not played Hong Kong or India before, while they can expect a tough challenge from Saudi Arabia, a familiar opponent.

Qatar will once again depend on goalkeeper Danijel Saric to get them out of sticky situations. Centre backs Wajdi Sinen and Moustafa Heiba will also have crucial roles to play. Right-back Rafael Capote, who has returned after surgeries on both his ankles, is expected to strengthen the team.

Of the three Qatari players who ply their trade with European sides, two — pivots Mario Tomic (Croatia’s RK Nexe Nasice) and Youssef Benali (France’s C’Chartres Metropole Handball) joined the team late while left-back Frankis Marzo (Portugal’s Sporting CP) will miss the early part.

“While Mario has joined us, Benali will miss the match against Hong Kong,” Rivera said. “Frankis will arrive only after the India match. I’m not unduly concerned about their lack of match practice with the team. They’re professionals and can easily fit in,” he added.

With months of training and some of the best players in the world featuring in their line-up, Qatar have an excellent chance of progressing to the quadrennial Games for the second time in history.

The Qatar National Team Pose For A Photograph Prior To Their Second Friendly Game Against Iran
The Qatar national handball team that will take part in the Asian Olympic qualifiers starting on Thursday. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran