Gone are the days when the Qatari team reached the final of a World Championship at home. In Egypt, she will just aim for a place in the quarterfinals.
Six years after its final in its home World Cup, Qatar is struggling to confirm on the international handball scene. After missing his qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, the gas emirate has revenge to take at the 2021 World Cup which begins for him on Friday. Qatar’s investment in the discipline is not limited to the team of stars built with Paris SG, which it aims to transform into a large multi-sports club: the Qatari selection built with naturalizations, had risen to the point of in the World Cup final won by France (25-22) in 2015. The ambition this year is more modest: “The objective is to be part of the first eight teams” displays the coach Valero Rivera, the technician of the feat.
An absence from the next Tokyo Games
Even if the Egyptian tournament, two months away from the Olympic qualifying tournaments and six from the Games in question, will be conducive to surprises, the Qatari selection, which may make it a goal in the absence of the Olympics this summer after its failure in the Asian tournament qualification, exercise great caution. His initial defeat two years ago against Angola (24-23) – which Qatar finds again on Friday for its entry into the competition – had deprived him of the main round of the last World Cup. The Qataro-Tunisian pivot Youssef Benali, protagonist of the 2015 adventure, therefore prefers not to step forward: “We want to have a good level, a good game, a good quality,” he simply outlines in an interview with AFP. And of course, we will do everything to defend our country and our colors. ”
Like PSG, who still have not won the Champions League despite seven national titles, the Qataris, quadruple reigning Asian champions, do not confirm at the higher level. Showered by Bahrain (28-26) in the semifinals of the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament, they will miss the meeting in Tokyo. Even if a “change of generation” has been initiated through the integration of “many young people”, as described by Youssef Benali, the backbone of the team remains made up of players from 2015. Starting with the tireless goalkeeper Danijel Saric (43 years old), native Bosnian. But also the Cuban rear Rafael Capote (33 years old), the pivot of Syrian origin Kamal Al Din Mallash (29 years old) or even the Bosnian rear Eldar Memisevic (28 years old) …
Encouraging preparation matches
A “difficult” group C awaits them, according to their coach’s admission, with Croatia, finalist in the last Euro, and Japan to accompany Angola. The team, in training in Doha, had a “preparation (which) is not the best but respectable”, describes Youssef Benali. Despite the health context, Qatar was able to test itself with a series of reassuring friendly matches at the end of December. “We beat Tunisia (33-30), a great team, and Argentina (24-22) which is progressing year after year”, recalls Benali who ended up losing against Spain (28- 26). “They have a lot more players who play in Europe, who have pace, experience and quality. It was a very, very good game, argues the pivot. We made a few mistakes in the last minutes and that allowed Spain to pull away. ” Good news, Qatar cannot cross paths with Spain before the semi-finals. By then, the top 8 goal drawn by Valero Rivera will have been reached. Or not.