Championships all over the world

Qatar 2015 is the goal for the top men's teams in all the continents

Qatar 2015 is the goal for the top men’s teams in all the continents

The preliminary round of the African Championships for men and women finished today, even if almost all of the teams advancing to the semifinals were known already yesterday. On the women’s side, I had suggested that the main question was which other team would join the three recent World Championship participants in the semifinals. Not surprisingly the answer is Algeria, who were able to use the home court advantage. They won their group ahead of the team from Dem. Rep. of Congo. In the other group, Angola and Tunisia dominated, with Angola coming out as the winner (25 -19) in today’s encounter between the two. This makes for an intriguing semifinal between Algeria and Tunisia, and the other semifinal is then Dem. Rep. of Congo against Angola. The fourth-placed team will not qualify for the World Championship.

On the men’s side, Egypt and Tunisia were through to the semifinals prior to today’s game between the two, which Tunisia won by 26-20 after a commanding 15-7 lead at half-time. These teams had easily won against all their four group opponents. Third place in the group went to Cameroon. In the other group, Angola had defeated Morocco in the very first game, but then they surprisingly lost against Dem. Rep. of Congo. So today Angola first needed to beat the ‘other’ Congo, which they did convincingly (38-29), and then they needed to hope that Algeria would defeat Morocco. This also happened, as Algeria pulled away to 26-19, after 11-11 at half-time. Judging from the group results, Morocco was never really convincing; and as I wrote a few days ago, it may be good for African handball to have a Sub-Saharan team come through on the men’s side. The semi-finals will now be: Algeria-Egypt and Angola-Tunisia. The top three will go through to Qatar 2015. Algeria-Egypt promises to be a hard-fought battle.

In the European Championship, the teams in the Main Round groups now have one game left on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Denmark is already through as a group winner to the semifinals from Group A, while Iceland still has a chance to knock Spain out of the other semifinal spot. But this would require both a win for Iceland against Denmark and a loss for Spain against FYR Macedonia. It seems to me that Spain is too strong to allow that to happen. In the other group, the results today meant that France is already the group winner and that, on Thursday, we will have a Croatia-Poland game which directly decides who will be second and third in the group. Sweden had seemed to have a chance, but today they had a complete mental breakdown against Poland, following the near collapse against Russia two days ago.

And before competitions come to an end in Algeria and Denmark, the 16th Asian Men’s Championship will get started on Saturday in Bahrain. Twelve teams will be competing, initially in two groups of six. Three teams will qualify for the next World Championships in January 2015, but as this event will take place in Qatar, it means that the hosts have a spot guaranteed. Undoubtedly, the Qatari will still see it as a matter of prestige to do well now in Bahrain, and they are probably the favorites. But it takes a little bit of pressure off for all the other teams who could qualify even if they come in fourth. The format of the event means that the key is to come in first or second in the group and qualify for the semifinals.

Group A: Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Bahrain. Group B: Qatar, Japan, U.A.E., Kuwait, Iraq and Oman. Group A has the three top seeds as the main contenders, as China does not seem to have progressed since the 2012 Olympics. The host team from Bahrain will have a tough time. Group B might look just slightly easier, but a tough fight seems to be looming between Japan and Kuwait. On the basis of recent results, U.A. E. may also be capable of a surprise.

The IHF is providing support for both the African and the Asian events. In Bahrain, there are two referee couples assigned, Johansson/Kliko from Sweden and Pichon/Reveret from France, under the supervision of the Referee Committee member Ramon Gallego. In Algeria, ten African referee couples are reinforced by Cacador/Nicloau from Portugal, under the leadership of Manfred Prause, IHF/PRC President and PRC member Roland Buergi.