By Latiful Karim Khan from Lusail Multipurpose Hall, Doha, Qatar. Jan 30, 2015: Qatar became the first non-European side ever to reach a World handball final after beating Poland 31-29 on Friday.
In a historic night for the sport at a jubilant and packed Lusail stadium, Qatar overcame a hesitant start to beat a dogged Polish side and shake up handball’s world order.
The first semi features a duel between the surprise teams of this tournament host Qatar and Poland” while the second is a clash between Spain, the reigning world champions, and France, the reigning Olympic and European champions.
Valero Rivera can add another chapter to his magnificent career. If the coach can lead Qatar to the final, he would be a finalist with two different teams in two consecutive World Championships after having coached Spain to the title in 2013.”My challenge is the same as that of my players. For most people seeing Qatar playing for a medal would have looked like an illusion, but due to our hard work we made it a reality,” Rivera said.
“It is much more than ambition. It is like a dream come true for everybody who is involved with the national team of Qatar.” Qatar eliminated 2007 world champions Germany in the quarter-finals, while 2007 world championship finalists Poland ended Croatian hopes.
Polish coach Michael Biegler expects equal chances for both teams.”I see it as a surprise that Qatar has reached the semi-finals, but it is just as big a surprise that we have got that far, I think. Our semi-final against Qatar will be decided in defence and by the goalkeepers.”
The second half was tense, but Qatar managed to maintain at least a two goal lead throughout. Poland edged close, 29-27 with less than two minutes to go, but the hosts clung on.
Markovic exploded into life in the final 10 minutes, to help settle any nerves, despite constant Polish pressure.
And a penalty from Markovic assured victory with just a minute to go.
At the final whistle, Qatar’s team of international stars — who all sang the national anthem before the game — celebrated wildly in front of an ecstatic crowd.