NANJING: Two facts should be more than enough to fire up Qatar for their men’s handball semi-final match against defending champions Egypt at the second Youth Olympic Games today.
Nanjing is the same place where Qatar had won the Asian Youth Games gold medal last year by beating South Korea. And another factor is that Qatar have been able to fulfil their first aim of reaching the last four stage and are aware that a victory tomorrow will guarantee at least a silver medal.
So today there is no reason why Qatar should not feel motivated and confident of their all-important match against the Egyptians.
Only two teams in the men’s competition have been unbeaten — Egypt in Group A and Slovenia in Group B. But it doesn’t mean that they can’t be beaten. Qatar were second in the pool after having beaten Tunisia but they had lost to Slovenia. Egypt had won both their matches against Brazil and Norway.
All Qatar need to do in the semis is to have a strong start and if they can do that, then they should be able to defend well. The Qataris are both sharp and strong but they have been guilty of missing opportunities, which has caused them a lot of moments of anxiety during their matches.
There is no doubt that the Egyptians are solid and have been playing well. With some pluck and luck, if they can be kept off for some time, this can do the trick for Qatar.
Qatar coach Chouaib Kafi said: “We’ve to forget the past and focus on the strategy for the semi-finals. We must find ways to stop and counter Egypt. The players have to be into the match both physically and mentally.
“At the same place, we had won the Asian Youth Games and this should motivate the team to raise the level for one more match. That gold medal performance is possible to be repeated and my players have the ability to do it,” he said.
“We have to be at our best in order to clinch this match and, Inshallah, we’ll try to push ourselves beyond our potential in tomorrow’s match,” the coach said.
Qatar Hanball Association President Ahmed Al Shaabi is also in Nanjing and he also tried to boost his young team for the crucial upcoming match. “Egypt is a tough team and have been showing all the elements of a champion team. Our players must try to exploit the opportunities that come their way.
“The loss against Slovenia might have some negative affect on the concentration of the
Qatari players. But there have been many positives from the two group matches. I hope Qatar will use those in the match against Egypt and show that they can raise their performance bar as well,” he said
Moustafa Heiba said the team is ready for the big day tomorrow: “We have played good handball and have improved a lot as a team. Now we’re one step away from reaching the final. We have to continue our progress with a fresh momentum and force.”