Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1427, (24 - 30 January 2019)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1427, (24 - 30 January 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Results not good enough

With two losses in the main round of the World Handball Championships, Egypt has dropped back, reports Inas Mazhar


Egyptain Handball
Egyptain Handball

Egypt’s national handball team was scheduled to clash with North African rivals Tunisia in the third match of the main round of the World Handball Championships which was held after Al-Ahram Weekly had gone to the press. But Egypt are highly unlikely to be among the final six to play for the title.

Egypt played five matches in the competition’s preliminary round, losing against Sweden and Qatar, beating Angola and Argentina and drawing with Hungary. In the main draw Egypt lost two matches thus far.

Denmark secured their seventh victory in as many matches in their second main round match on Monday night, defeating a solid Egypt side 26-20 thanks largely to their expert use of seven-on-six in the second half. It was 9-7 at half time. Denmark maintained their lead until the buzzer announced the conclusion of the game, as Egypt kept fighting and always threatened to narrow down the score difference.

The win increased the Danes tally to eight points, where they sit above their rivals for the semi-final places, with Sweden and Norway, both on six.

According to the tournament’s official website, the current Olympic champions and semi-finalists at the last European championship, the Danes are one of the strongest teams in the world – but Denmark often face trouble finding their rhythm against sides from outside their continent, and that was exactly the case on Monday night in Jyske Bank Boxena arena in Herning in Denmark.

Egypt started with the first three goals of the match and kept the edge through the first quarter before Denmark took the lead. The African side’s defence, changing between 6-0 and 5-1, did an excellent job keeping Denmark’s usual starters such as Mikkel Hansen (five goals) and Rasmus Lauge (one goal) mostly quiet. It was not until the co-hosts employed the seven-on-six tactic in the second half that they began to create a clear gap.

Egypt’s 22-year-old goalkeeper Mohamed Eltayar had a great match, saving many clear chances for Denmark, including a penalty versus Mikkel Hansen in the first half. He left the court in the 50th minute after a run of goals from Denmark pulled the Scandinavian team in front to 21-17. A little earlier, Denmark coach Nikolaj Jacobsen had also changed his keeper, from captain Niklas Landin to Jannick Green.

Egypt left back Ali Zein Al-Abedin stood out in attack, scoring six goals for his side – mainly off spectacular jump shots from nine metres, while Eslam Eissa provided his usual excellent leadership from centre back.

The player of the match award went to Denmark’s line player Anders Zachariassen.
Following the match, Egypt’s coach David Davis said: “Firstly, we played yesterday and again today. I have very big respect for Nikolaj and his team. We tried to surprise them today with our 5-1 defence, and it worked at the beginning. We got tired and didn’t know what to do. I’m proud of my players. They tried their best for 60 minutes and we have had a good tournament.”

On the other hand, winning coach Jacobsen said it was a strong match. “I would like to say thanks for a tough match. It was very difficult for us. We had a hard time with the 5-1 defence and couldn’t win the one-against-one matchups. We played too slow. We were good in defence. Started out with troubles, but the seven-against-six worked for us and probably ended up being the reason we won.”

A day earlier, Egypt had lost to Norway in the first match of the main round 32-28. The 2017 World Championship runners-up did not have an easy time against Egypt but fought their way to a four-goal win at the final whistle. Egypt had pushed the Scandinavian side right till the end, containing their fast-break game well and forcing Norway to play mostly positional attack.

Egypt took an early lead before Norway claimed the edge, with the European team holding a 7-6 lead at the 10th minute when back Sander Sagosen already counted three goals to his name. Davis changed his line-up frequently, and his team kept close the entire game, but they had to work very hard against Norway’s solid 6-0 defence. Egypt then put on a combined effort in the game, as they finished the match with 11 players on the score sheet while only seven Norwegians scored during the game.

The second half was tiring for both teams, as each side took almost 50 shots in the match – 47 for Norway, 49 for Egypt. Egypt always had the chance to come back, as they were only behind by two goals with less than three minutes remaining (29:27). But Norway held on, with both Rod and Sagosen reaching the 10-goal mark by the time the final buzzer blew. Sagosen was named the player of the match award.
“I thought Egypt played fast,” Norway’s coach Christian Berge said after the match. “They came with a lot of crosses and played a good game. We tried to run a counterattack again. We did so in the first half but missed a lot of clear chances. It was a tight game until the very end.”

Davis acknowledged that his team had made too many mistakes, “stupid mistakes and losing the ball but I’m satisfied with the performance of the team, of course. For us it’s a present to be in the main round. We are going to fight all the matches, we fight today, we’re going to fight tomorrow and we’re going to fight against Tunisia because we just want to grow. I want to congratulate my players because they are making an excellent tournament; we have only been working for five months.”

The tournament is being staged in Germany and Denmark and ends 27 January.

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