Asian Championship: Korea remains undefeated, and Saudis surprise Japan

As expected, the start of the Main Round brought a new level of intensity, with close matches, surprises and nerves both on the court, on the benches and among spectators.

The situation after two of the three Main Round days is:

[u]Gr. A[/u]
Iran – Saudi Arabia 19-26 (8-11)
Japan – Qatar 29-20 (15-10)
Iran – Qatar 21-22 (11-11)
Japan – Saudi Arabia 26-28 (12-15)
Qatar – Saudi Arabia Mon. Feb. 15
Japan – Iran ditto

[u]Gr. B[/u]
Syria – Bahrain 32-35 (13-16)
Korea – Lebanon 38-23 (17-11)
Korea – Bahrain 39-25 (19-11)
Syria – Lebanon 32-29 (17-14)
Syria – Korea Mon. Feb. 15
Lebanon – Bahrain ditto

In a placement match, China beat U.A.E. with 28-25, and will now play for 9th place.

In yesterday’s and today’s matches, the strong comeback of the Saudi team was remarkable, after they failed to win their group in the preliminary round. In fact, the Saudis had a much more comfortable lead against Japan, before they mysteriously lost their momentum. Iran could instead be seen as a negative surprise, although it is true that they were not really tested earlier. Korea has kept ‘steamrolling’, and the Bahraini victory against Syria may turn out to be a key result.

When play resumes on Monday, all eight teams in the Main Round still maintain at least a theoretical chance to qualify for the semi-finals. Conversely, each of the eight teams still runs the risk of missing out on the semi-finals, although it would require an absolute miracle for Korea to fail, considering the very favorable goal difference against Bahrain. The Saudis are in a good position for advancing, and Japan have an edge due to strong goal difference, but the team from Qatar are not out of it. Lebanon would need to rely on Korea to keep winning, and then they would need a 4-goal win against Bahrain to squeeze into the semifinals. All in all, a very exciting finish is coming up when the Main Round concludes in Beirut.