Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Court in recess

The 22nd Africa Handball Cup of Nations being played in Cairo is drawing to a close with most teams earning what they got, Mohamed Abdel-Razek reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Today, 28 January is a day off for all the 12 participating teams in the African Handball Cup of Nations who have been battling it out since the beginning of the competition with only one off day earlier this week. The organisers planned a sightseeing tour in the morning for the teams and a gala dinner tonight to ease the tension of the players and officials.

But tomorrow, they will get back to the business at hand with the semi-finals and placement matches taking place while the play-off matches and the final will culminate the 10-day tournament on Saturday.

The quarter-finals and placement matches from positions 9-12 began yesterday after Al-Ahram Weekly had gone to press. Four quarter-final matches were scheduled to have been played in the main hall at Cairo Stadium with the runner-up of Group B meeting the third of Group A in match No 1, the winner of Group B facing fourth of Group A in match No 2, runner-up of Group A clashing with the third of Group B in match No 3 and the Group A winner taking on the fourth of Group B in match No 4.

The winners of the quarter-finals will meet in two semi-final matches for two berths in the final, with the winners of matches 3 and 4 playing against each other in the first semi-final while the winners of matches 1 and 2 will fight for the second semi-final match. Before the semi-finals, the loser of the quarter-final games will play for position matches from 5 to 8. Other placement matches will also take place including the play-off for places 9-10 and 11-12.

Twelve handball national teams from across Africa came to Egypt for the 22nd African Cup of Nations with different hopes and expectations. The competition kicked-off on 21 January and as the 12 were broken down evenly into two groups, five teams seemed to be clearly dominating their respective groups.

Egypt, Algeria and Morocco ruled Group A from the start, securing their qualification to the quarter-finals early on, after the fourth match, while showing how wide the gap was between them and the other teams. Tunisia and Angola took care of Group B. By the time the teams had played the fourth fixture they had guaranteed qualifying to the quarter-finals along with the Democratic Congo.

At the lower levels of the groups, Cameroon and Nigeria in Group A and Libya and Congo Brazzaville in Group B fought for fourth place up until the fifth fixture to capture the last ticket to the quarters.

No surprises regarding Gabon and Kenya which never ventured higher than sixth in both groups since the start of the tournament. Gabon in Group A had no chance on paper nor on the court; the same went for Kenya which did not even have a coach at the beginning of the championship. A coach did arrive later but Kenya still failed to win any of its games, even though their performance improved as the competition progressed.

Algerian coach Reda Zeguili made it clear from the start that his big goal was not necessarily to win the cup but to qualify to the World Championships in France in 2017 and that to accomplish that, he and his team had to finish in the top three.

Of course there is no team that wants the title more than the Egyptians. They have not held the trophy since 2008. Further incentive: the winner of this African Cup of Nations will play in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics this summer. The ambitious Egyptian coach Marawan Ragab and his talented players look like they can capture the cup and with it, the accompanying trip to Brazil.

Other teams, including Morocco and Congo Brazzaville, said at the beginning of the tournament that they would work hard to improve their ranking among the top teams in Africa regardless of the results.

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