Bt Sports Reporter/Cairo
After helping Qatar book their place in the last-8 phase of the 27th IHF Men’s Handball World Championship, star player Youssef Benali has promised to go all out for a victory against Sweden today when the two teams clash for a spot in the semi-finals.
Qatar on Monday defeated Argentina 26-25, but their passage to the next phase as the second-best team in Group II was only confirmed a few hours later when already-qualified Denmark thrashed Croatia 38-26.
“We will fight until the final second of the game against Sweden to snatch a place in the tournament’s semi-finals,” Benali told journalists yesterday. “Sweden are a big team and are also one of the favourites for the World Championship title, so we will be definitely facing a tough opponent. I hope to put on a good performance and help Qatar win the match. It’s certainly possible if we play to our potential,” Benali added.
He said the team’s performance so far has been exemplary considering their injury problems and the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The tournament is difficult, especially with so many top teams participating and also due to the lack of proper preparation due to coronavirus pandemic,” the Qatari pivot said.
“We succeeded in booking a spot among the top eight teams in the world despite losing a number of our talented players due to injuries.”
With Egypt also making the quarters, history was created at the tournament as it’s the first time two teams from outside Europe have made the cut.
“It’s a great achievement to see two Arab teams among the best eight teams in the world. Egypt is a brilliant team and they could reach the semis. I wish them good luck,” Benali said.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s leading scorer Frankis Marzo is vying with Norway’s Sander Sagosen to emerge as the tournament’s top scorer.
Sagosen, the two-time World Championship silver medallist (2017 and 2019) scored 50 goals in the first six games for Norway, and is only one goal shy of his performance from two years ago, when he put netted 51 goals.
However, Marzo leads the race after six games, having scored 53 of Qatar’s 136 goals in the event, which amounts to a whopping 36 per cent of his team’s goals. Sagosen is, however, still leading the assists rankings and there, it is not even close. The Norwegian star helped set up 37 goals in the six games he played at Egypt 2021, 10 more than Chilean back Rodrigo Salinas and Swiss centre back Andy Schmid.
“I am feeling very good, both on and off the court right now. I feel fresh, but you can always be better. When I am on the court, I want to give 100 per cent every time. I also want to be flawless, to have a maximum efficiency. But that can hardly happen, because I shoot a lot,” said Sagosen.
Sagosen has the best efficiency among the top five backs in the competition, converting 67 per cent of his shots.
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