Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1232, (5 - 11 February 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1232, (5 - 11 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The French five

In handball, France became the 2015 World Champions with a historic win over hosts Qatar in an atmospheric Lusail Multipurpose Hall. Inas Mazhar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

With the 25-22 win over Qatar in the final match played on Sunday, France became world champions for the fifth time.

The French also added the world title to its European crown.

And it has qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

It was also the first time for the host nation to reach the final of the World Handball Championships. In fact, the Qataris became the first Arab country to reach the final of the sport’s number one competition. Qatar’s best previous finish was 16th at the 2003 tournament in Portugal.

However, the achievement this year was mired in controversy since the Qataris have a team comprised of nine foreigners, mainly from east Europe, who were given Qatari nationality.

Like many other sports in Qatar, the Asian Arab country has been buying talented players in all kinds of sports, offering athletes who don’t make much money back home lucrative contracts and the nationality. It is noteworthy that the only national on the team is coach Al-Enabbi, but even he is an assistant to the manager, Spaniard Valero Rivera, who guided his own country to the 2013 title on home soil.

It was Qatar which scored first in the final match, followed by a penalty save from goalkeeper Goran Stojanovic, indicating it was not going to be the easy win for France as some may have predicted.

Right back Alix Nyokas was the first to score for France, beginning his run of strong breakthroughs off Nikola Karabatic passes.

Karabatic’s first goal gave France a two-goal lead they held for the first 15 minutes of the game.

At this point Qatar’s Hassan Mabrouk had already received two two-minute suspensions, putting him in a dangerous position with 45 minutes yet to play.

Daniel Narcisse was in top form, scoring spectacular goals to put three on the board for France by the 20th minute (6-10), while Thierry Omeyer became progressively more of a headache to the Qatari attack.

With 10 minutes left in the half France had created a four-goal advantage (7-11) led by Narcisse, Karabatic, Nyokas and Michael Guigou, who all recorded a three-goal tally beside their name at this stage.

Rafael Capote and Zarko Markovic were taking most of Qatar’s responsibility at the other end of the court, each scoring four of the home side’s 11 goals in the first half.

France took a three-goal lead into the break, but it was Qatar which came out stronger when the second half began.

The hosts scored two quick breakthroughs to put them just one behind their opponents.

France did not take long to respond, also scoring two consecutive goals to maintain the three-goal advantage.

Things got a little close for comfort for France around the 40 minute mark, when a series of Qatari goals coupled with a two-minute suspension for Cedric Sorhaindo enabled Qatar to come within one goal (17-18).

Qatar’s more agile defence troubled the French, but Xavier Barachet, who stepped on the court for the first time in the second half, scored two goals in succession to keep his side ahead.

At the 45th minute, France held a narrow one-goal lead (19-20) and tension was high throughout the arena.

By the 50th minute however, heroic saves from Omeyer and fast-paced counter attacks helped France create a three-goal advantage (19-22), which they retained as the clock ticked into the final five minutes (21-24).

A tense few minutes followed, but when Narcisse scored a breakthrough shot in the 58th to keep France’s lead at three (22-25) and Omeyer made an important save in the next Qatari attack, the European side began to see the glint of the trophy.

Poland upset 2013 world champions Spain with a hard-fought 29-28 win in the third-place playoff earlier Sunday.

Michal Szyba’s eight goals and Kamil Syprzak’s six strikes powered Poland to their win.

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