Incheon: Qatar stayed on course for their first Asian Games gold medal in handball after a convincing 29-21 win over Iran in the semi-finals at the Seonhak Handball Gymnasium here yesterday.
In the championship match on October 2, Qatar will meet South Korea who scored a tense 27-23 victory over Bahrain.
Rafael Capote top scored with six goals for Qatar, while Mahnoud Hassaballa had five and Bertrand Roine and Abdulrazzak Murad contributed four each.
“Finally we are on the verge of realizing our dream of a gold medal at the Asian Games in handball,” said Murad after the match.
“We have had a hectic schedule at the Asian Games but all members of our squad are fit and ready for the challenge and we hope to continue our momentum and make the country proud.”
In an extremely physical match that saw a great deal of pushing and shoving, not to speak of desperate lunges and tumbles, the Iranian defence managed to stonewall the Qataris initially to restrict the scoring.
After four minutes of attritional play, the scores were locked 2-2 before Roine exploded out of nowhere to put Qatar ahead. That was the spur Qatar needed as they never surrendered their advantage after that.
Goals by Murad and Hassaballa further stretched Qatar’s advantage and with the powerful Capote finding his groove, the Iranian defence found itself in tatters.
A brief period of slackness by Qatar helped Iran score a few goals midway through the first half, but by the time the first half ended, Rivera’s boys were 13-10 ahead and in a much better frame of mind for the rest of the match.
That aspect shone through at the start of the second session when Qatar scored five goals without a break to go ahead 18-10, thus putting the match beyond Iran’s reach.
Hasaballa than ran riot with four goals to compound Iran’s misery before three goals in the final three minutes completed the rout.
Qatar goalkeeper Yousuf Al Abdulla said Qatar had the talent and the determination to take the gold on Thursday.
“We have two days of rest before the final but we won’t be resting. We will be doing our training as usual and planning,” Al Abdulla said.
“South Korea are the defending champions and they would try their best to keep the gold in front of their home fans but we are determined to prove we are the best,” he added.
Qatar have missed the gold on two occasions in the past. In 2002 at the Busan Asian Games, they had to be content with the bronze behind champions South Korea and runners up Kuwait.
Four years later, in 2006, Qatar were denied the gold medal at the Doha Asian Games by Kuwait who won a tense final 27-24.
Later in the evening yesterday, Jeong Yikyeong and Junggeu Park scored five goals each as South Korea defeated Bahrain 27-23 put paid to the hopes of an all-Gulf final.
South Korea led 12-10 at half-time and pulled through in the end despite some periods of play in the second session when two or three quick goals could have changed the course of the match.
Mahmood Abdulqader and Mohamed Al Maqabi scored five goals each for Kuwait who will now clash with Iran for the bronze on Thursday.QOC