NANJING: Qatar could not push their performance bar higher and finished as the fourth best team in the men’s section at the second Youth Olympic Games handball yesterday.
At the Jiangning Sports Centre, Qatar, playing the bronze medal play-off, lost the match to Norway 25-33.
Slovenia, later in the day, clinched the gold medal, dethroning Egypt 31-25. The champions were narrowly ahead at the interval with 13-11 edge.
Powered by Gal Marguc and Blaz Janc, who blasted eight goals each, Slovenia took the match in their grip and did never let it slip off. Ali Refaat was the main striker for Egypt with five goals.
After days of intense competition in Nanjing, the responsibility of winning a medal had fallen on the Qatar handball team and 800m runner Idriss Moussa Yousef.
Qatar, however, appeared to be struggling to overcome the setback of losing the semi-finals to Egypt.
The kind of spark and flair were needed against Norway, they were missing a bit and the European team controlled the proceedings after Qatar failed to utilise early fast breaks and attacks.
After tying scores thrice inside six minutes, Norway forged 6-3 ahead through tall left-handed Magnus Abelvik Rod’s double strike and Aksel Horgen. Then it was an uphill battle for Qatar to return into the match. The gap kept widening and it was 14-8 by 21 minutes. Qatar tried to bounce back and reduce the deficit a bit but Norway again increased it to six goals at the interval (19-13).
There was some early pressure by Qatar after the resumption and their best moments in the match were when they struck three goals in a row to come close (21-25). Norway quickly stepped up the attack and scotched any hopes of comeback that Qatar had. Rod was outstanding and contributed 11 goals alone for the winners, despite suffering two suspensions of two minute each. Horgen netted six. Eirik Kopp, Tormod Hauane and Sinder Andre Aho all cracked four goals each.
For Qatar, Faruk Colo was the top-scorer with six. Amor Dhiab had five. Six players - Jovo Damjankovic , Abdulaziz Helali, Adson Bajrik, Amine Guehis, Nour Ahmed and Mohamed Abdelraouf, chipped in with two each.
Coach Chouaib Kafi said that he was hoping his team would be able to return home with a medal but it was not possible for his inexperienced team.
“We came to Nanjing with the preparations for the upcoming Asia Cup in mind. If we had won something, it’d have been an icing on the cake. We tried our best but the competition level was quite different here.
“Next week, we’ve to go to Jordan to play in the Asian youth championship, which is also very important and will decide the qualifiers for the World Championships in Russia. That is also high on our priority list. The fourth place is also good for us.
Team manager Ali Madadiy said Qatar were not able to get over the setback of losing to Egypt.
“The team’s performance was looking still affected by the defeat at the hands of Egypt. There were many things in the mind at the same time so it was slightly difficult to focus on the bronze medal match.”