Qatar top group with win over Saudi Arabia
Madadi stands out with five goals as hosts post a 29-20 victory and stay unbeaten en route to the semifinal.
Qatar outgunned Saudi Arabia 29-20 in the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Al Duhail Indoor Hall on Monday to clinch top spot in Group A with an all-win record.
The hosts, who had already clinched a semifinal berth, will meet the runners-up in Group B in the last-four phase. Bahrain (4 points), the Group B leaders, take on South Korea (2) while Iran (2) meet Kuwait in the final league matches on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia, who finished second behind Qatar in Group A with four points, will meet Group B winners, with both the semifinals slated for Thursday.
With hundreds of fans, including world high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim, rooting for them, Qatar delivered in authoritative fashion. They led 13-9 at half-time.
Ameen Zakkar (four goals) opened the scoring for the hosts just 30 seconds into the game. A few ticks later, Saudi Arabia’s Mahdi Alsalem (three) levelled the scores.
But then, Qatar found their footing and rapidly got ahead. They led 7-3 at the end of 10 minutes and were ahead 11-6 after 20.
Left-winger Ahmad Madadi, who scored five times, once again proved to be the sharpest weapon in Qatar’s arsenal.
Left-back Rafael Capote, who was out with an injury, booted up for the first time in several months. The 2M-tall player built a defensive wall with pivot Youssef Benali (1.93M) and the duo’s long hands stopped many a shot at goal.
Goalkeeper Danijel Saric was also in fine form, making things even more difficult for the visitors.
Abdullah Alabbas (seven) proved to be Saudi Arabia’s best scorer. That four of his goals came from penalty throws only served to underline Qatar’s defensive superiority.
Saudi Arabian goalkeeper Hani Albarakati also enjoyed a good outing, ensuring Qatar did not run riot as they did against Hong Kong (49-14) and India (40-10). But that was little consolation for the visitors as they finished second best on the day.
Meanwhile, Mutaz, lapping up the adulation, said he hoped to meet the handball players at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I watched the game from start to finish and loved the atmosphere. I had the handball team with me at Rio 2016 and would love to meet them again in Tokyo. I wish them the best,” the high jumper told Inside Qatar, after receiving a handball signed by the entire national team.
Qatar Handball Association General Secretary Mohammed Jaber Al Mulla was happy that the home side never once loosened the grip on the game.
“The players knew exactly what they had to do and did it well. The fans made the win extra special. Our aim is to qualify for Tokyo and we’re moving in the right direction. The next matches will be crucial as there’ll be no second chances,” he said.
India, who defeated Hong Kong 32-29 in the day’s earlier match, were third in the group with two points. Hong Kong remained winless.