BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Defending champions Spain and European giants Slovenia were yesterday drawn in the same group of the 24th Men’s Handball World Championships which will be held in Doha next January.
At a glittering draw ceremony attended by the International Handball Federation (IHF) family, Qatar — who were at a liberty to join any one of the four groups — decided to jump into Group A and face the defending champions and four other sides in their bid for the world title.
Spain, who beat Denmark at the last edition of the World Championships in 2013, will be joined by Brazil, Chile and Belarus in Group A besides Qatar and Slovenia.
In Group B, Croatia will be joined by teams from Tunisia, Iran, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.
Arab sides Egypt, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were drawn in Group C, which also has the Czech Republic, Sweden and France.
In Group D, Bahrain will have to do battle with Germany, Argentina, Poland, Denmark and Russia.
Qatar’s coach Valero Rivera of Spain minced no words when he admitted Group A had “tough teams”.
“It is a very, very difficult group,” Rivera said at the draw ceremony, which was attended by H E Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani and IHF President Dr Hassan Moustafa.
Sheikh Joaan is the chairman of the organising committee of the 24th Men’s Handball World Championships.
“This will probably be the toughest-ever World Championships. We have Bosnia, Denmark, Argentina, Croatia and other teams at this World Championships,” Rivera, who guided Spain to the world title in 2013, added.
The French team’s technical director, Philippe Bana, described his feelings in one line.
“Group C and D are groups of death,” he said.
France — the defending European champions — will face Sweden in the re-match of the 2012 Olympic final.
The 4th Men’s Handball World Championships will be held from January 15 to February 1, 2015.
Six Qatari children assisted Leon Kalin, the Chairman of the IHF Commission of Organising and Competitions, in conducting the draw.
“We are thrilled to be in a city that has a passion for sports,” IHF President Mostafa said yesterday.
“Handball has always won great support from the stakeholders here. I am sure the new venues, specially built for this World Championship, will add a new flavour to the event,” he added.
Dr Thani Abdulrehman Al Kuwari, General Director, 24th Men’s Handball World Championships, said Qatar’s promise to stage a unique event in one city will be delivered next January.
“We are close to building three new venues. This means handball fans from all over the world won’t have any travel woes,” he said.
“When we had bid for the World Championships, we had promised that all venues would be built in one city. We are about to complete all three venues soon,” Dr Thani said.
“The fans can easily watch the games without having to worry about travelling from one city to another,” he said. “That’s why we feel this will be a unique World Championships.”
“We have been in constant dialogue with the IHF since we began our preparations for the World Championships,” Dr Thani explained.
“We will make sure every effort is made to make this event the greatest-ever World Championships,” he said.
“We are thrilled that the 2015 World Championships will be an important milestone in the development of the game,” Dr Thani said.
“This edition of the World Championship will leave a lasting legacy for generations to follow,” Dr Thani said. “A legacy not just for our people but for all handball fans in the region.”
The match schedule — which will be confirmed in close co-operation with the IHF, the Qatar 2015 Organising Committee and TV rights partner beINsport, will be announced in due time, officials said.
The venues for the 24th Men’s Handball World Championships are the Qatar Handball Association Complex, Al Sadd Sports Centre, Lusail Multipurpose Arena and the temporarily-built handball arena at the Aspire Dome.