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.
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.
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
|Saudi Arabia||South Korea|
|Thursday, October 17||Saudi Arabia vs India||4pm|
|Qatar vs Hong Kong||6.30pm|
|Friday, October 18||South Korea vs Iran||4pm|
|Bahrain vs Kuwait||6pm|
|Saturday, October 19||Hong Kong vs Saudi Arabia||4pm|
|India vs Qatar||6pm|
|Sunday, October 20||Kuwait vs South Korea||4pm|
|Iran vs Bahrain||6pm|
|Monday, October 21||India vs Hong Kong||4pm|
|Qatar vs Saudi Arabia||6pm|
|Tuesday, October 22||Bahrain vs South Korea||4pm|
|Iran vs Kuwait||6pm|
|Wednesday, October 23||REST DAY|
|Thursday, October 24||MAIN ROUND|
|3A vs 4B||12pm|
|3B vs 4A||2pm|
|1A vs 2B||4pm|
|1B vs 2A||6pm|
|Friday, October 25||Seventh place match||4pm|
|Fifth place match||6pm|
|Saturday, October 26||Bronze medal match||4pm|
|Gold medal match||6pm|
|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.