By Sports Reporter/Borg El Arab, Egypt
Qatar are braced for a tough challenge from Japan in their second Group C clash in the IHF Men’s World Championship at Borg El Arab near Alexandria Sunday.
The match begins at 5.30pm Qatar Time with the former runners-up aiming for the second consecutive victory, having beaten Angola 30-25 in the opener on Friday.
Japan, who drew with Croatia on Friday, will be highly motivated for the clash as they desperately need a victory to qualify for the next phase of the tournament.
Japan were the first team to land in Egypt in order to prepare for the event and it showed in their match against Croatia as they forced a dramatic 29-29 draw against the European giants.
Coached by Icelander Dagur Sigurdsson, Japan were on the cusp of victory when a buzzer-beating goal from seven metres by Ivan Cupic helped Croatia avoid a shocking defeat.
Asian champions Qatar, however, are well-equipped for the match with a host of stars in their ranks, who have tremendous experience at the international level, especially Daniel Saric, Ahmed al-Madadi and Frankis Marzo.
The team took part in a training session Saturday under the watchful eyes of coach Valero Rivera and Qatar Handball Association president Ahmed al-Shaabi.
Rivera emphasised that the team should avoid the mistakes they committed during the match against Angola where it required a spirited second-half performance to beat the Africans.
“Everyone needs to be at his best against a team like Japan because we are missing some key players because of injuries,” Rivera said.
“We beat Angola in the opening match despite the absences and we need to do it again, against Japan.
“They are a tough team but we should also avoid risks. The important thing is that everyone ends up unscathed after the end of the tournament.”
Meanwhile, Mustafa Karad’s participation in Sunday’s match is in doubt after he suffered an injury during Qatar’s match against Angola on Friday.
Saturday Belarus went through to the main round after beating South Korea 32-24 in their Group H match.
After Korea’s loss against Slovenia, they got off to the better start, leading 5:4 at 12th minute. Goalkeeper Changwoo Lee stood out, saving three shots within a minute. Under the eyes of left back Uladzislau Kulesh, who watched the entire match from the bench, right wing and Player of the Match Mikita Vailupau finally scored the first lead for his team at 6:5.
Belarus slowly pulled away and extended their lead to a comfortable six-goal advantage at halftime.
“We played with a very young squad in the second half, but it is really important for all of them, that they get their time on court to gain more experience at a World Championship,” said Belarus coach Iouri Chevtsov.
Led by the team’s top scorer Jin-Young Kim, the Asian side tried to keep the game within reach, but weren’t able to come closer than six goals. With 13 minutes to go, Belarus got three two-minute suspensions. However, the young Korean squad failed to get past Ivan Maroz from the seven-metre line, who saved four of seven penalty shots during the game.
Initiated by Maroz’s superb actions, three unanswered goals from Belarus finally sealed the win, securing their second victory against Korea, after their 26:20 triumph at Spain 2013.
“The most important thing today was the victory. That was an unusual match. Korea play different than the teams in Europe and they were able to produce a lot of mistakes on our side,” concluded Chevstov.
With one draw and Sunday’s win, Belarus are the first Group H team to proceed to the main round. They play their final preliminary round game on Monday against Slovenia.
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