Qatar take on Bahrain, South Korea play Saudi in semis
Group matches end in thrilling finishes as South Korea edge Bahrain and Kuwait draw with Iran in Asian Olympic qualifiers.
The preliminary round of the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament came to an exciting end at the Al Duhail Indoor Hall on Tuesday, with Bahrain emerging as Qatar’s semifinal rivals from Group B.
South Korea edged Bahrain 31-30 to top Group B, pushing the Gulf nation into second place. Although both teams had four points each, South Korea finished leaders on head-to-head record.
The Koreans will take on Group A runners-up Saudi Arabia in the first semifinal, followed by Bahrain’s clash against Group A winners Qatar, with both the matches scheduled for Thursday.
Speed was South Korea’s greatest weapon on Tuesday. The players made blistering runs across the court leaving bewildered Bahraini defenders in their wake.
The Gulf nation attempted to stifle the South Korean attacks using superior physique, but the strategy proved futile.
While Bahrain’s defence did not have too many answers, their strikers were on target, matching their rivals goal for goal. But in the dying moments Korea held their nerve and trooped out winners.
Park Kwangsoon (seven goals), Byun Young Jun (six) and Jung Suyong (five) were the leading scorers for the Koreans. Bahrain depended on Ali Merza and Mohamed Ahmed who scored seven goals each.
In another match, Kuwait held Iran to the tournament’s first draw (36-36) and avoided the ignominy of an all-loss record. Iran placed third in the group with three points while Kuwait were last with one point.
Iran, who had to win by a large margin to progress, were stunned by the Kuwaiti fightback. The teams went toe-to-toe for most part of the game.
Iran’s Nosrati Shahoo (eight) once again proved to be key for his team, while Salman Barbat (seven) and Mojtaba Heidarpour (six) gave him ample support. Abdullah Algharaballi (eight) was Kuwait’s top scorer.
India will take on Kuwait and Iran will play Hong Kong in placement matches on Thursday. While the seventh and fifth-place play-off will be held on Friday, the bronze and gold medal matches will be played a day later.