Asian Handball Championships (Semifinalists Set)

Group play is over at the Men’s Asian Handball Championship and 4 semifinalists will now battle it out for Asia’s 3 tickets to the 2009 Men’s World Championships. In the final match Friday, host Iran needed a victory over defending champion Kuwait in order to advance. The hosts eked out a 35-34 victory creating a 3 way tie for first place with Kuwait, Iran and Bahrain all level at 6 points a piece. As Kuwait beat Bahrain, Bahrain beat Iran, and Iran beat Kuwait, the tiebreaker came down to goal differential in their 3 head to head competition. Proving that every goal counts in group play the final standings were

Kuwait (+1)
Iran (0)
Bahrain (-1)

So for group A, Kuwait finishes 1st in the Group, Iran takes 2nd, and Bahrain is 3rd.

In Group B, South Korea won all four of its matches to take 1st place. Saudi Arabia, courtesy of their victory over Qatar finished in 2nd place. Qatar which had qualified for the 2005 Championships finished 3rd and Japan, which had tied Saudi Arabia earlier, finished in 4th place. The United Arab Emirates was winless and took 5th place in the Group.

Seminal Matches for Sunday, February 24
Kuwait vs. Saudi Arabia
South Korea vs. Iran

[b]Where’s Yoon?: [/b] Korean star Kyung-Shin Yoon scored 15 goals on Wednesday night, but he was no where near Isfahan, Iran. Instead of playing for South Korea he was helping his club side Hamburg win a key Champions League match against Portland San Antonio. According to German media reports, Yoon and his club Hamburg had disagreed on his participation in the Asian Olympic qualifier in Japan. Speculation is that he is not testing Hamburg’s good graces and the importance of the Champions League matches are taking priority. Additionally, Yoon has indicated that he will probably retire at the end of the season and therefore would not participate in Croatia. Finally, as Korea has shown they can probably place 1st-3rd without his services

[b]Olympic Qualifier Rematch?:[/b] Both South Korea and Kuwait will need to take care of business in the semifinals, but the Championship game could very well be a rematch of the controversial Olympic Qualifier. The IHF has had control of the tournament and a Ukrainian and Russian pair have been officiating many of the matches. One of those pairs will surely officiate the semifinals and final, so in theory there should be no bias in those matches.

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